Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘This Mountain Life’

Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘This Mountain Life’

Visiting British Columbia’s mountains can be a solitary experience. However there are a few people who live in and appreciate that place in their own way. That might be Grant Baldwin’s message in This Mountain Life, his new documentary. Its main focus is a mother and daughter team who decided to cross those mountains. Tania is the mother and Martina the daughter. Baldwin then mixes their trek with interviews of others living along their trail.

The mountains mean everything to these people. This Mountain Life travels with these subjects. Baldwin flies on top of them, capturing their physical trial and commits to doing so. It’s a long commitment that other talking heads would say they won’t do. There are a lot of breathtaking overhead shots, close ups. He even attaches a camera to a care package for Tania and Martina. I’m almost jealous of people seeing this in big screens.

There are a few things in the movie that put me on the fence. Grant, with his co-writer Jenny Rustemeyer, use animation to tell Tania’s backstory. The animation comes off as too cutesy, which is strange for depicting Tania’s life in Communist Czech Republic. Tania and Martina narrate the former’s physical ordeal in escaping Soviet life. Only for her to come to a country and live a life where she can afford $4000 food drops.

The intervals of the other citizens who live in the mountain also bug me. Again, they present a different relationship with nature. Their segments even make the environment look different. But it’s as if Tania and Martina’s story isn’t interesting enough for this shorter film. Other mountain docs use fewer subjects and seem more coherent. I’m not saying that Baldwin and Rustemeyer should have walked a more familiar path, but this just seems slightly scattered.

This Mountain Life premieres on April 30 at 6:15 PM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Next screening is on May 2 at 3:30 PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Last show is on May 4 at 11:45 PM at the Scotiabank Theatre.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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