If you’re anything like me, you might have been under the impression that the High Five Festival is a ski film festival. Though you can be forgiven for thinking that, you’d be wrong to think ski movies are the be-all, end-all of High Five.
Now, there’s no doubt that ski movies still play a central role at the High Five, as I can tell you after a packed weekend of back-to-back showings at Annecy’s Cinema Pathe. With a huge line-up featuring everything from much-hyped crew projects from Buldoz, Forre and The Bunch to big-ticket ski movies from the like of Matchstick Productions, Teton Gravity Research and the Blank Collective, this year’s High Five served up enough ski action to keep you dreaming about snow day in and day out all season long.
But in its 12 years of existence, High Five has grown into something much more than just movie screenings. Let’s start with the music festival: two full days booked with popular French acts and screaming, moshing crowds numbering in the thousands. Then, of course, there’s the brand village, which has outgrown that name even as it’s expanded to take over more space on Annecy’s beautiful lakeshore. It’s now a full-fledged action and outdoor sports bonanza featuring a full skate park, climbing walls, trampolines, air bag, dryslope ramp, bike park, kids’ zone… you name it, there’s something here to float your boat. This year’s festival even featured a job fair for anyone looking to land a resort or industry job this season.
Is High Five a ski film festival or a music festival? This year, it was both.
A bit of rain didn´t stop the musical acts from going off.
Let’s not stop there—the fun continues with soirees, conferences, masterclasses, even comedy shows. There’s even a street food festival where you can chow down between activities. And last not but not least, let’s not forget the legendary parties at Pop Plage. High Five is all this, and more.
That being said, there’s still one main reason that most of us make it a point of getting to Annecy each October, and that’s the year’s crop of ski films. With showings running almost non-stop from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening at two different locations, it’s frankly impossible to catch all of the screenings, but the Downdays crew did our best to soak up as many movies as possible.
The festival officially kicked off on Thursday, September 29 with the Golden High awards ceremony, where nine different awards were handed out to the standouts among the over 120 movies shown over the weekend. You’ll find the full list of winners below, but it’s worth noting that the hard-hitting Finnish street crew Forre walked away with Best Short Movie for “Cast,” while The Bunch secured the prestigious Best Film award for “Many Fantasies Later.” Best Male Performance went to Sammy Carlson in “Yup,” while Coline Ballet-Baz claimed Best Female Performance for “Recipe.”
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Best Movie - “Many Fantasies Later,” The Bunch
Best Short Movie - “Cast,” Forre
Best Snowboard Movie - “Invisible Ground,” Elias Elhardt & Xavier de la Rue
Best Outdoor Movie - “Au Revoir,” Justin Loiselle & Raph Derome
Best Man - Sammy Carlson, “Yup”
Best Woman - Coline Ballet-Baz, “Recipe”
Best Eco-Friendly - “Le Chemin,” Arthur Bourbon
High Buzz (Best Online Video) - “Ultimate Run,” Markus Eder
Special Jury Prize - “Fuego,” Killian Bron
It should also be mentioned that for the first time, this year’s High Five expanded to movies beyond skiing and snowboarding. Mountain biking, wakeboarding, skateboarding, climbing and trail running all got time on the screen, breaking up the monotony of nonstop snow movies with some fresh perspectives from different sports.
Our favorite movies? Well, the aforementioned crew productions from Forre, Buldoz Life and The Bunch are all well worth a watch.
Forre has garnered a reputation for making the hardest street skiing movies out right now, and “Cast” certainly backs up that reputation—even as it feels a bit more fun and less intense than their previous movies. The level of skiing is off the charts from the likes of Joona Sipola, Harald Hellström and Maino Ormio—and Lauri Kivari may only have a handful of clips, but every one of them is certifiably insane.
“Y” from Buldoz Life is a quirky romp from this eclectic Swiss crew, who spurn technical outerwear in favor of second-hand swag and homemade pants. A solid half of the movie is filmed off of snow, which makes for, let’s just call it a very entertaining watch.
I won’t lie, I didn’t get the chance to see “Many Fantasies Later” from The Bunch, since our own Downdays movie from the Gaptastic Voyage was playing on the outdoor screen at the same time. However, all of the reports are that this is yet another cinematic tour de force from this extremely talented crew.
A few other honorable mentions: “Yup” from Sammy Carlson is a season edit on steroids, showcasing Sammy doing Sammy things in the pristine powder of British Columbia. It’s easily his best video project in years, and clearly captures why he locked down the “Best Man” award.
“Recipe” is Coline Ballet-Baz’s follow-up to “Skivas.” It’s an all-women film that includes Taylor Lundquist, Michelle Parker, Juliette Willmann, Jennie-Lee Burmansson, Sarah Hoefflin, Manon Loschi and a pack of other talented women. “Recipe” leans heavily on interviews with the women in the starring roles, delving deep into their perspectives on the sports and coming up with some honest, sometimes difficult answers about why these women do what they do. I personally felt that the ski action could have been just a bit stronger, but there are still strong performances from ladies like Sarah Hoefflin, with a memorable switch 5 on a BC booter, and young gun Manon Loschi, who sent an absolute banger of a laid-out double backflip.
“Pueblo” from Harlaut Apparel is a wild ride into the inner working of Henrik Harlaut and his stylish gang of street hoodlums: Isaac Simhon, Noah Albaladejo and Eirik “Cryptoskier” Moberg. Swedish team coach and former Level 1 Productions shot-getter Niklas Eriksson makes a memorable return, and Bella Bacon provides the standout women’s street performance of the year. It’s a wild rumpus of a project that stacks street bangers from Bosnia to Finland, with all the gangsta rap and over-the-top thugness that only this crew could purvey.
These are the movies that stick in my memory the most, but I’m still only scratching the surface. Julien Lange’s “Straighline Project,” Nikolai Schirmer’s “Eulogy of a Steep Skier,” Jacob Wester’s “A Part of Us,” Enak Gavaggio’s “Punk”… the list goes on and on. If you’re into ski movies, you’ll have plenty to catch up on this fall.
After several days of rain, the sun finally came out on Sunday.
Weather-wise, Mother Nature didn’t quite play along this year. It was a rainy, wind-swept affair for much of the weekend in Annecy. Finally, on Sunday morning the sun finally decided to bless us with an appearance, and the whole vibe changed in an instant. Many of the visiting skiers and crews had already left, leaving a festival for Annecy locals and those who stuck around to enjoy—one last sunny, action-packed day before the gates of High Five closed until next year. And if you’re anything like me, you’re already planning to be there.
Post-script: High Five is arguably skiing’s largest ski film festival at this point, but it still retains a very strong French flavor. That’s all well and good, but it would be fantastic if the festival felt more welcoming to international guests—for example, like offering a website and ticketing in English, or providing 50/50 English and French commentating.