Cinema Spotlight: Rampage (1999)

Julie DeJesus, Chris Sharma, Brett Lowell, Jason Wein, Josh Lowell, Obe Carrion in the redwoods. photo: Dean Fidelman 
Outdoor cinema is a genre that elicits visions of high-resolution, professional caliber film, spotlighting athletes in remote and exclusive locations. Helicopters, cinema cameras, and extraordinary budgets combine to generate something larger than life. In recent years, some may argue that production value and contemporary trends in filmmaking have impacted the authenticity of outdoor cinema. An industry focus on creating highly consumable feature films has led to what is arguably a lack of authenticity in the actual films. While this sentiment is sure to cause some division among connoisseurs of outdoor cinema, it is clearly the case that Rampage (1999) serves as a masterclass in connecting viewers with the heart and soul of outdoor culture from an insider’s perspective.
Chris Sharma, Rampage Cover
Bret and Josh Lowell’s Rampage serves as an unadulterated lens into pursuits of then-19 year old Chris Sharma and his entourage of transient climbers. Sharma, hailing from Santa Cruz California, is already a pioneer in the discipline of bouldering at his young age. His accomplishments so far have earned him a reputation as one of the world’s greatest climbers. The film follows Sharma and his crew as they travel along the west coast of North America establishing new bouldering routes from California all the way up to British Columbia. The movie takes a hands-on, D.I.Y approach to filmmaking more parallel to Alien Workshop’s Photosynthesis than Free Solo. The documentation of Sharma and friends living in an RV in the late 90’s introduces the viewer to the attitude and lifestyle of one of the world’s most celebrated climbers. Filmed with point and shoot cameras complemented with frequent use of the fisheye lens, the film is  soundtracked by an eclectic mix of jazz, hip-hop and breakbeats, perfectly encapsulating the rebel spirit of late 90s like no other climbing film has done.
Screen-captures from Rampage (1999). All credits belong to Big UP Productions.