Greetings again from the darkness. When at a dinner party someone introduces themselves as “an engineer”, we don’t typically settle in for a long evening of tales describing their daredevil and death-defying hobbies. Filmmaker Marah Strauch teaches us being too quick to judge could cost us the exhilarating story of Carl Boenish, the acknowledged father of BASE jumping.
Mr. Boenish was an engineer turned cinematographer turned skydiver and cliff jumper. Despite his unbridled energy and enthusiasm, his engineering background (Hughes Aircraft) provided the analytical foundation that helped him plan “safe” jumps for years. And it was his love of film and cinematography that produced a treasure trove of film clips from some breathtaking jumps … beginning with his 1978 leap from Yosemite’s El Capitan.
The film is about Boenish’s thirst for the next big jump, but it’s also about his jumping partner and wife Jean, and the bond between them. GoPro cameras have spoiled us today. We are accustomed to film clips of just about anything that involves speed, height or any person looking for a thrill. Thirty plus years ago, such clips weren’t possible … except with Boenish and his clunky cameras strapped to helmets on these jumps.
BASE jumping is an acronym for Building, Antenna, Span, Earth … the types of jumps required to join the ranks of Boenish’s group. We witness the fights against national park Rangers, and the clandestine operations that led to jumps from under construction skyscrapers in Los Angeles and Houston. Boenish truly pushed the Nature’s Law vs. Man’s Law conflict.
Director Strauch takes us through the Guiness record jump at Norway’s Troll Wall, and we even hear Jean stating that Carl would have been right there with today’s wing suit jumpers. The final shot of a modern day “flyer” is quite the contrast to those early Boenish jumps. The film answers “How and Why”, and leaves little doubt that the genetic make-up is quite different for this group of thrill-seekers than for the rest of us … and being an engineer doesn’t exclude one from either group!
watch the trailer: