Fire On The Mountain (Chris Benchetler and Tyler J. Hamlet, 2019): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed virtually as part of Mountainfilm 2020, a documentary film festival showcasing nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political, and social justice issues.I remember the day I rode with my friends, Wally Weilmuenster and Dan Nester, to go swimming at Bone’s Lake jamming to the Grateful Dead’s “Fire On The Mountain.” The world was ours in that moment and it seemed limitless. So naturally as I perused the Mountainfilm shorts programs, I made a mental note when I saw Fire On The Mountain, directed by Chris Benchetler and Tyler J. Hamlet, inside Adrenaline shorts. Being 11:30 PM, an adrenaline focused lineup with 12 offerings might not be an ideal choice for most of us. For me, however, it proved to be an optimal experience.

As I’m a meticulous note-taker, I was scribing when Fire On The Mountain hit my tv screen. I noted the coloration and then the unthinkable happened – a textual title revealed the film was set to the music of the Grateful Dead. I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing the Dead perform live. I’ve been tuning into Dead and Company shows every Saturday on Facebook via Mugs.tv for the last ten weeks. And, I did have the good fortune to see Further at the Santa Barbara Bowl several years ago. I remember that night vividly as I sat in my seat looking around as it was my first SB Bowl experience. As I looked around, I noticed a figure that I’d been watching since I began playing organized basketball in the St. Louis Metro-East way back in 1973. It was none other than Bill Walton – the same Bill Walton who connected on 21 out of 22 field-goal attempts as a UCLA Bruin at the old St. Louis Arena during the 1973 NCAA Championship Men’s basketball game.

I know you’re wondering, “What does Bill Walton have to do with Fire On The Mountain?” I can tell you one thing for certain Father Time is not playing any tricks. I was listening to the film’s poetically rhythmic voice-over-narration while thoroughly enmeshed in the film’s visuals when I became aware of thought – “that narrator sounds a lot like Bill Walton.” Then, I became aware of another thought – “it’s just somebody that sounds like Bill Walton – but who in the world sounds like Bill Walton?” Walton not only provided an enlightening narration for Fire On The Mountain, but he also is credited in the film’s collaborative writing.

Fire On The Mountain is inspired by the improvisational jam music of the Grateful Dead and features seven of their songs including “Brown Eyed Woman,” “The Other One,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Dark Star,” “Playing In The Band,” “Fire On The Mountain,” and “Ripple.” From Teton Gravity Research, a Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based action sports media company “committed to fueling progression through its films and website,” Fire On The Mountain incorporates a psychedelic dynamic with trippy visuals, non-diegetic Grateful Dead music, showcases an in-progress, spot-on creation of a Dead-like mural all in juxtaposition to and simultaneously in ethereal harmony with bold, expressive and acrobatic action sequences in the water and on the mountain. In addition, the cinematography, costuming, and the tone was magically Dead inspired.

As the film closed, I sat uplifted and somewhat mesmerized, with the film’s group of talented actors around a bonfire appreciating their world and the freedom to live and experience their form of truth in unspoken ways. The performers executed the action sequences to a T opening up and expanding the conscious realm of possibilities. Part dreamscape and part action film, Fire On The Mountain illuminates rad surfing and snowboarding talents and weaves the light of the Dead and “all the feels” into an inescapable whole. Inspired and ready for bed, I started the last short of the program, Wingsuiter Flies Through Narrow Hole. I watched a flying man free fall through some sort of netting. It repeated itself then cut to black. A one-minute short of a man blasting through time and space and through a metaphorical representation of a Native American dream catcher. Only in America. Only at Mountainfilm. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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