DESERT RUNNERS plays in the ‘Best of Fests’ at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) this week and is eligible for the Audience Award.
Desert Runners is directed, produced and edited by Jennifer Steinman and tells the story of an eclectic group of non-professional athletes who take it upon themselves to take on the Desert Grand Slam of runs resulting in Five Marathons in Six Days across the four harshest deserts in the world - Atacama, Sahara, Gobi and Antarctica. All whilst running and carrying everything you need to survive (food, first aid, supplies, water) in a rucksack on your back.
The documentary follows the runners, Dave O'Brien a 56 year old Irish businessman, who as he has got older has become an ultra-marathon nut in an attempt to combat ageing. Ricky, an ex-baseball player from America. Samantha, a law student from Melbourne, Australia who dreams of being the first female to complete the challenge and the youngest person at the same time. In her words, she has time for structure before her dreams get undone by the stringent nature of societal rules of marriage and security.
Steinman not only offers incredible insight into the psychological nature of these competitors who go to extreme ends of the earth to fulfill their ability but shows how their sheer belief has guided them to the end result.
This close proximity with the competitors showing the harshness and physical toil that they put themselves through is in sharp juxtaposition with the sheer awe and beauty of the natural landscapes the runners have as a backdrop. Allowing Steinman to also offer a picture postcard of Mother Nature as well as a tough cookie to overcome when running through her.
At times as gruelling as it is inspiring offering an amazing insight into the mind of runners in general coupled with some wonderful landscape cinematography. Desert Runners is one of the most exhilarating documentaries of recent years.
Desert Runners as well as being up for Best Documentary at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam; was named as one of the Best of the Fest at the 2013 Edinburgh Film Festival and won Audience Awards at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival and 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival.