Leaving the theatre after watching this documentary about Carl Boenish, father of the base-jumping movement, I couldn't help but think how far skydivers have pushed the sport.
Parachutist and base jumper Felix Baumgartner's much publicised, highly sponsored jump from space was an incredible feat.
But this doco offers much more fun. Like when Boenish checks if a cliff is jumpable by throwing a rock off it and counting until it slams into the face. There's something to be said for simplicity, spirit and child-like enthusiasm — all traits Boenish brought to the sport in its early days.
Director Marah Strauch discovered a stash of Boenish's films in a deceased uncle's belongings and Sunshine Superman blossomed from there. It's a conventional documentary, with plenty of archive footage, re-enactments nicely matched to archive footage, and talking heads, but there's no way this film would have been made without Boenish's film-making endeavours.
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Long before the age of GoPros on helmets, he strapped a hefty 16mm camera on his, and anyone else he could convince to carry one. He was as much interested in filming jumps as doing them. To shoot friends jumping off El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, he suspended himself over the cliff face, 900m above ground, on a ladder with a bicycle seat on the end. It's terrifying watching him shoot from this precarious position — but his resulting footage is thrilling.
Boenish had a man-child quality and was full of life, but as crazy as base jumping looks and sounds it doesn't come across as completely reckless. This has a lot to do with Jean Boenish. Calm and rational, and described as looking more like a librarian than base jumper, Jean systematically goes through their life together leading to the 1984 World Record jump in Norway and the tragic event that followed. Their love story balances the film.
Sunshine Superman is a touch long, and at times pedestrian but it's still a moving, thrilling story.
Cast: Jean Boenish, Carl Boenish
Director: Marah Strauch
Running time: 110 mins Rating: (PG contains coarse language)
Verdict: A warm, fun and thrilling documentary about one man following his passion.