Never Ending Thermal is an 'Endless Summer' for the free flying generation.
The action-packed documentary features the adventures of Venezuelan pilots Herminio Cordido and Jorge Atramiz as they embark on an around-the-world flying odyssey.
Created by award-winning filmmaker Sean White, this highly produced film showcases the many disciplines of paragliding with top pilots from around the world and celebrates the spirit of the free-flight community.
The English language DVD features the 47-minute movie with subtitles in Spanish and French, plus many bonus features including an extensive 20-minutes making-of documentary (in three languages), trailers, outtakes, extra footage from St. Hilaire and Angels Falls, the entire original soundtrack and much more.
Never Ending Thermal scooped the Grand Prize at the 22nd Coupe Icare International Film Festival back in 2004 and is still one of the sport's best films.
The film’s victory at the free flight’s most prestigious film festival was seen by many as just reward for it’s incredibly high level of production and beautifully simple ethos.
The jury’s decision to award the prize to Canadian film-maker Sean White was unanimous. They declared, "Never Ending Thermal has all the makings of a cult film reminiscent of the all time great surfers’ reference, The Endless Summer.
"Never Ending Thermal offers the true essence of the spirit of the free flying world through the daring, jubilant and informative adventures of Jorge Atramiz and Herminio Cordido, two hip Venezuelan paraglider pilots who guide us through their choice of the flying world’s hot spots, ending up with the ultimate flight from the Angel Falls.”
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Review by Hugh Miller, in Cross Country Edition 94
Never Ending Thermal is an extremely ambitious project, and the end product is a multi-layered, lavishly produced epic of a film that defies easy summary.
The film's ambition is hinted at in its title - Canadian producer Sean White makes no secret that his goal was to make an 'Endless Summer' for free flying. Bruce Brown's travelogue film of 1964 followed two young surfers as they tripped round the world searching for the next perfect point break. Endless Summer not only reaffirmed the surfing lifestyle to the tiny core of riders at the time - it also opened up the beautiful simplicity and riches of travelling to surf to a much wider public, propelling surfing to new levels of popularity.
Already broadcast on Outside TV, the DVD is released with several extras, including a fascinating 'Making Of' feature, in which we see the camera mounts being designed, an opera singer hired for the musical score, and Sean and his team pour months their lives into the project.
Sean swaps surf sticks for paragliders, but the mission remains the same. Two relatively unknown Venezuelan pilots (Herminio Cordido and Jorge Atramiz) are the film's stars. As they experience a myriad of different flying sites in Europe, Africa, Nepal and South America, their contagious enthusiasm and dry wit make them ideal choices. Flying tandem among the flying masquerade of the St Hilaire festival, they are baffled by one of the costumes...
'It's a cat.'
'No, it's a lion.'
'No man, it's a cow!'
'The cow is getting higher.'
'I know. We're flying worse than a cow!'
Herminio and Jorge are not just endowed with humour and joie de vivre - they possess huge talent for flying, and the film's focus is firmly on their mini-adventures with different pilots across the world rather than embarking on huge distance expeditions.
In the Italian Dolomites, the crew all thermal up to land high on a grassy slope. They walk along an arête to a mountain refugio to share lunch with a local Italian pilot who drops in to join them. After spaghetti and beers, Herminio and Jorge glide back down to the valley floor, leaning back in their harnesses and resting their heads in their hands as they admire the towering rocks around them. OK, so after watching The Race and this, I really want to fly there now.
The sophisticated flying culture of Europe is then contrasted with the harsh reality of exploring unknown sites, as the crew cross the Mediterranean and voyage deep into Morocco in search of the Zagora basin. 'We read about a huge ridge here,' says Jorge, but sandstorms and crosswinds keep them grounded for a week. Then finally the winds subside, and Jorge and Herminio kite their gliders gingerly up razor-sharp rock-strewn slopes. As they launch the panorama opens wide around them - the vast browns and yellows of northern Africa stretch out to infinity around them. I felt thirsty just watching it.
'Three dimensions, no rules - just go where you want,' says Jorge of the place. It's moments like these that the film really excels at portraying the essence of travel.
But there's plenty of action too. The pair are acro fiends, and drop into dynamic stalls and helicopters in the most radical of places - not just over the lakes of Italy and Slovenia in organised contests but right in close to truly breathtaking scenery that I couldn't help but feel was a long, long way from the nearest hospital. The film's finale is a mission to Venezuela's Angel Falls, unflown since 1993, and after all the hard travelling of the film, drinking in the lush forest and sparkling river scenery of La Gran Sabana national park is like sipping a hot chocolate in an outdoor centre after a hard day's hiking. The 3,000 ft vertical waterfall plunges so ferociously that thick mists rise up like smoke from a burning building right up to the cliff top. When Herminio finally succeeds in launching in the turbulent air of the flat table-top like cliff and bursts over the edge - it comes as a pure shot of exhilaration. But not content with just the glory of the scenery, Herminio throws a SAT right down next to the cascading water, his trousers and on-board camera lens wet with spray.
Never Ending Thermal is more than a well-crafted introduction to many of the world's most intriguing flying sites. It's more than a showcase of a lifestyle. And it's more than a masterpiece of cinematography. The film is a major exploration of free flying's many elements and is a beautiful contribution to our sport.
Length: 47 minutes. Extras: 32 minutes.