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Saturday, September 17, 2011
Premiere of "Solitaire"

By Cody Townsend
ESPN.com

Sweetgrass' movie sold out Denver's Gothic Theater on Thursday.

It's not often that the still silence of a 600-person crowd at a ski movie premiere equals a successful showing. But "Solitaire," the new film from Sweetgrass Productions, proved that sucking the words out of your audience with a cinematographic opus and brooding narrative can equal a blockbuster of a ski movie debut.

Over the course of the last two years, Sweetgrass Productions spread their cameras and team across the backbone of South America's Andes Mountains to make the film. In Thursday at the Gothic Theater in Denver, Colo., the public wasn't shown a movie about Sweetgrass' travels, but instead the viewer was pulled straight into their journey.

The movie abstains from the conventions of dialogue, location names and character development and instead focuses solely on letting the pictures do the majority of the storytelling. In one scene, an anonymous skier huddles around a rain-stifled fire and begins a trek from the soggy lowlands into the snowy upcountry. The scene, shot with such precision and edited so simply, pulls you so strongly into the moment that you just might shiver and want to huddle up next to a fire after watching it. The stunning lacing of imagery was only broken by the movie's minimalist narration, a moody and amplifying Spanish reading of Joseph Conrad's novella "Heart of Darkness."

Sweetgrass' Nick Waggoner was amazed by the turnout to the film's premiere. "Two years ago we were playing on pull-up screens at mountaineering shops," Waggoner said. "To have a completely sold out theater blew us out of the water." The audience must have been amazed too because as the last scene closed, the silence was broken by a chorus of cheers.