Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Running the Sahara", amateur "expedition" runs across north Africa in 111 days

Matt Damon narrates and functions as executive producer of a curious documentary “Running the Sahara”, a “reality movie” about three men (Charlie Engle (USA), Ray Zahab (Canada) and Kevin Lin (Taiwan)) who run 7500 kilometers across the Sahara Desert from Senegal to the Red Sea over the fall and winter of 2006-2007, taking 111 days. Each day they ran about 50 miles, almost two marathons. At the end, Charlie feels like Moses, waiting for the Red Sea to part.

Along the way they meet and document the lives of indigenous peoples, some of whom are permanently nomadic. At one point they encounter a boy alone, who has waited two days for his parents to find water.

A major element of the story is getting permission to transit Libya. Charlie, as the “leader” has a driving ego, insisting that all members of his support team understand that this is an “expedition” and that every one want to be there for the entire experience.

If there were a small film that needs Imax, this would be it, to see the subtle variations in scenery. From Timbuktu, which they gave themselves little time to see, they encountered almost no towns until they got all the way to Cairo.

The website for the film, from Nehst Out, is here. The international charity that the film has started is “H2O Africa”, link here. The well known production company was Live Planet. The film is directed by James Moll, but I wondered what Danny Boyle (“127 Hours”) would have done with this.

The DVD has many extras.  There is a 45-minute featurette "Beyond the Expedition", in which Charlie talks, especially about the importance of experiencing "suffering" on an expedition. The filmmakers picked up a tool called the "Russian Arm" in Niger; and the short shows their visit to the city of Agadez.

There are four briefer short subjects:

"Dirty Water" from the Central African Republic;

"A Glimmer of Hope Foundation" by Turk Pipkin, showing the building of schools in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where today schools are built of thorns.  Link.  The short makes the point that oldest sons often cannot go to school because they have to support ill parents and younger siblings. They have no choice.

Tidene Valley NGO: "Wells of the Desert";

"Living Water International", by Kendall Payne

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