Title: Mission Antarctic
Director: Guido Perrini
Mission Antarctic is the latest release from Xavier De Le Rue, Lucas Debari and the Relentless team. It's a stark and often impossible-seeming shred-documentary exploring and snowboarding in some of the most treacherous terrain on Earth.
Up until about 200 years ago, the Antarctic continent was untouched by humans. And today, it's still one of the least accessible, most hostile landmasses on the planet. Simply put, Antarctica is not a place that makes life easy.
So to travel there and tackle the Antarctic Peninsula on a snowboard is by no means a light undertaking. You think most people have to deal with unpredictable weather? Try taking the Drake Passage. To even get to the Antarctic, the crew had to pass through this continuous band of water that circles around the South Pole. It has no land mass to stop it spinning, ranking it pretty highly in the list of places you do not want to be on a boat.
...Fortunately, the team behind Mission Antarctic are a suitably experienced group. From Jerome Poncet - the weathered-faced ship's captain who is renowned for his knowledge of the area. To Renan Otzurk - National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year and director of photography for the trip.
Then, of course, there are the riders themselves. This isn't Xavier's first Antarctic party and it does feel like a personal development after his riding with Jeremy Jones on the continent. As usual, he seems comfortable - explaining that he's in it for the sailing, wildlife and history of the Antarctic as well as the shred. For Lucas Debari, however, there's a sense that this is a new level. There's no doubt that he's a highly accomplished backcountry rider in his own right - but it's obvious that this is a bit of a jump from the Alaskan peaks that he's used to.
And that, if nothing else, is a huge testament to the challenges of Antarctic terrain. Even if you overlook the facts that they're dropping in with pick axes, and heading towards the sea -there are a tonne of other factors to overcome: It's almost impossible to scout new areas and the snow only softens up when they come out of grey weather. Equally snowy patches in the shade maintain their unyielding crust throughout the sunny days. It's also (initially) easy to forget with everything else going on, and that these are some of the steepest lines you've ever seen.
That being said - Xav describes the powder as perfect in this beautifully shot but aesthetically harsh terrain, with a thin layer of soft snow that has extra stability because of the freezing cold temperatures.
It's worth mentioning at this point, that the creative process for Mission Antarctic didn't stop with the video itself. At the premiere, we were treated to a live score by Aidan Lavelle and guitarist James Carroll (Pure Love), and a string quartet to boot. Again this is reminiscent of Xavier and Jeremy's last Antarctic trip - which was scored by Unkle and played live with the philharmonic orchestra in London's Union Chapel. We can see why they kept it in the family (Aidan Lavelle is Unkle's brother) as the music acted as a seamless and fitting accompaniment to the film.
So we were sad to see this one finish. The ender, as expected, is phenomenal. 'The Captain' - an ominously named run - is a whole other level in a film that is full of 50-65 degree slopes. Having hiked most of the way, Lucas understandably decides not to drop in, and you can see from the speed Xavier takes just how challenging this is to ride. You know it's serious if he's digging his edge in the whole way down. But then again, on film Xavier is like an addict who's having to up the dosage. In person he's quiet and humble and shows the signs of someone who has already done everything he needs to in the sport, but internally you can tell he's still looking for more.
As a light hearted close, leading onto the credits, the pair finish off with some skim-boarding over the freezing Antarctic waters. Lucas doesn't quite make it, but Xavier - as if to reiterate their master and apprentice roles in the film - steps up and shows us how it's done. To be honest, we didn't expect anything less.
Whitelines Rating: 8/10