We may be a decade removed from the paddling film heyday of the late '90s, but you wouldn't have guessed it by the energy in Fort Collins, Colorado, on April 19, where Adrian Matthew Glasenapp’s long-anticipated Light in Liquid premiered to a packed house at the New Belgium brewery.
The event served as a fundraiser for the Poudre River Enhancement Project/Friends of the Poudre. The film, in which Matthew and fellow producers Leif Embertson and Dan Woolley aimed to "push the creative edge in the whitewater film genre," succeeds in that goal, and does so without sacrificing the requisite paddling porn that make these films so visually enticing.
Many of the known Colorado hairboating hotspots are highlighted—Big South, Oh Be Joyful, Yule Creek, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. But the team also traveled to Idaho for some burly drops down Lower Mesa Falls on the Henry's Fork and made an extended journey to Mexico's El Salto and La Tomata Rivers, among others.
Light in Liquid was a three-year project, and included some of the best helmet-cam footage I've ever seen, much of it captured by Embertson as he slipped over another gargantuan horizon line. There was little in the way of playboating footage, but what they did include was creatively presented, with a heavy dose of slow-mo and an appropriately dramatic soundtrack.
The production quality is as high as it needs to be, especially considering that Matthew had virtually no budget to work with. But the strength of LiL lies in its creative energy and approach, with a light touch on the special effects and the inclusion of real, instead of forced, dialog between the paddlers. And of course, if you're looking for big drops and sketchy recoveries, you won't be disappointed. —Tom Bie