[Over the next three weeks, we will be giving out awards to some of our favorite new snowboarding movies. This is Part 2 of the series. To see Part 1, Best in Lo-Fi, click here. Be sure to place your pick for your favorite films on our Fan Voting page.]
Besides a mellow cameo from Terje, there are no "big name" snowboarders in Neil Hartmann's Japanese snowboard movie, "Car Danchi No. 5." There are no massive cheese wedge kicker sessions, no double corks, no nose presses down triple-kink handrails, no high-consequence wall rides or AK spine lines, no bomb drops out of helicopters or off two-story buildings. And yet...
Not since David Benedek's "91 Words for Snow" has a movie encapsulated that feeling -- the almost indescribable happiness that results from the simple act of riding a snowboard down a hill covered in snow. "Car Danchi No. 5" is not a movie documenting the achievements of a few, but rather one that feeds the addiction that grips us all. It is, at the core, a movie that makes you want to go snowboarding. Watching it, it is hard not to wonder why people don't often make films like this anymore.
Snowboard trends, like most things, run in cycles. Since the beginning, there has always been a kind of a push/pull between people who think snowboarding is about riding big mountains, and rail/jib kids who think snowboarding is about riding whatever obstacle is in your path.
There is obviously no right answer here -- other than: snowboarding is whatever is fun to you -- but whichever side is winning the ideology war in any given 2-3 year span tends to dominate the kind of snowboarding you see on screen. And if you're the kind of person who watches most snowboard movies, most years, it's easy to get bored by the "sameness" of it all.
Sometimes it's nice to step outside the Matrix and see what else is going on. A movie that is made by a crew based in Scandinavia or Switzerland or Japan is always going to have a different aesthetic and approach than one made by a crew based in North America. It's fun to look at something you think you know so well through new eyes.
For example, the Pirate Films crew might make a movie that's almost entirely urban, which isn't a new concept in this year's slew of jib-focused vids. But while over here in the States dudes are sliding handrails in mini-malls, over there guys are bomb dropping off of 100-year-old stone buildings. It just looks different. So it's fun to watch.
But "Car Danchi" is on a whole 'nother level. It is not just a European twist on the standard snowboard affair. It is a love story; a sweet little movie about a group of Japanese guys who like to cruise around in used vans, purchased specifically so they can sleep in them, looking for powder.
There have been a lot of segments in snowboard movies over the years that have illustrated just how incredible Japanese snow is. But they are always just one segment, wedged among many. This is a whole movie of it. And halfway through you start to realize that not only are these guys riding crazy- shaped powder boards, but some of them have full quivers of powder-specific snowboards, and nothing else. And from this realization is it only a very small mental leap to the question: How much money it would really take to go snowboarding in Japan. What if you didn't stop in Tokyo or buy any electronics? What if you hiked instead of going to the resorts? How much would it be to rent a van like the ones they're driving around in the film?
At the end of the day, isn't that what a good snowboard movie should do? Make you want to go snowboard yourself?