Review: Thrillseekers Adventure Film Festival 2013


“Adventure is not outside man, it is within” – George Eliot

“Adventure is not outside man, it is within” – George Eliot

The Thrillseekers Adventure Film Festival returned this autumn for its eighth year showcasing the best adventure films from around the world. The festival presents three programmes that follow the stories of dozens of incredible people across the globe, all of whom have accomplished something extraordinary, whether it’s a one-off expedition, or activities engrained into their everyday life.

Showing at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios on Saturday 26th October was ‘Programme 3’, which documented adventure travel from California, to Oman, to Australia. As I sat down in the intimate cinema, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the fact that there was not one empty seat in the place suggested I was in for a treat.

Into the Empty Quarter

The documentary Into the Empty Quarter was the main feature of the programme, and tracked the journey of Alistair Humphreys and Leon McCarron, who say that for them, adventure is a necessity, something they cannot live without. Following in the footsteps of renowned explorer Wilfred Thesiger, the two friends trekked the 1000 mile expanse across the Arabian Peninsula from Oman to Dubai; the inspiring film documents their voyage, capturing the highs and lows of life in the desert.

After preparing themselves for the harsh terrain they would be facing, which mainly involved amusing footage of the pair pulling their homemade cart along Margate beach, the guys set off on their journey. It’s fair to say the expedition was far from pleasant, and after about 600 miles, Alistair made the point that now they had crossed the halfway point, the sense of challenge had been lost, with Leon adding that the “total, utter emptiness” of the landscape didn’t help them with motivation.

However, they pressed on, documenting the generosity of passers-by who boosted their spirits; truck-drivers would stop, share food, and stay and chat with the pair, who concluded (once they’d reached Dubai of course) that it was an overall amazing experience, and that theirs was like a 21st-century version of Thesiger’s journey.

Modernisation has meant that the silence and solitude of Thesiger’s original experience was compromised, but the pair maintain that “the magic of travel means that every journey is different”, and actually, as a viewer, I felt the encounters with kind strangers along the route was what really made their expedition special.

Pascale Honore – an inspiration

Like Leon and Alistair, Pascale Honore from Australia was also keen on adventure activities before she was involved in a car crash that left her paralysed from the waist down. Having watched her two sons grow up surfing in their hometown of Elliston, she had always dreamed of surfing along the south coast of Oz, something that now seemed impossible.

In what many found to be the most touching short film of the night, we saw her son’s friend Tyron Swan  strapping Pascale to his back with duct-tape as he hit the surf on South Australia’s west coast. This innovative idea works brilliantly, and the pure elation on Pascale’s face as she soared over the waves was tangible.


The rest of the programme was comprised of clips showing people all over the world who live extraordinary lives. For me, climber Alex Honnold really stood out. In the short film ‘WHY’, we saw how Alex’s life revolves around, and literally depends on his sport, as he free-climbs, forgoing any type of harness, meaning that one slip could be a matter of life and death. Climbing mainly in California, the film captures Alex in the beautiful scenery of Yosemite Valley, where he scales tall mountain faces with few ledges, using only cracks in the rock-face as a route to follow.

Also featured in ‘WHY’ was world-champion mountain biker Rebecca Rusch, who traverses the red stone plains of Moab, Utah on her bike, pushing physical boundaries and exploring new places with her sport. The film questioned the athletes’ motivation for their extraordinary lifestyle, and one answer resounded with everyone – there is no conscious choice made, climbing/cycling/kayaking, etc.  allows me to be who I want to be.

The Thrillseekers Adventure Film Festival is running until 30th November with screenings in over 30 cinemas across the whole of the UK. To find your nearest showing, click here.