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Reel Rock - Honest Review

April 15, 2019

Spoilers may be below - you’ve been warned!  

Reel Rock has been worked into my yearly film watching routine, and the last several years, I’ve felt a little let down.  As I’ve aged and seen climbing film after climbing film, I’m looking for the storytelling, not just the epic drone imagery of the crazy hard send that relies on a mono pocket or razor sharp crimp.

So, behold my quick review of the feature films this year:

Bridge Boys:

This film encompassed all things covid shut down, my version of adventure and pure passion of climbing. Two thumbs up from this ex-engineer, drawn to all things concrete and bridge.  But the question of the day… with the support of nightly pizza and thick layers of padding, was it aid?

Barefoot Charles:

Don’t climb in the gym barefoot.  Just don’t.  Keep your stinky toes off of our holds.

Big Things to Come:

THIS.  I think that watching this film was hard, in a good way.  The outdoor industry needs role models like AJ.  We need safe spaces for young climbers to be themselves, to discover themselves while also identifying as climbers- it doesn’t have to be one or the other.  Conversations regarding identity only inspires us more in creating programming like our all inclusive Community Climb, hosted the last Thursday of the month.


We get it.  Woot woot.  Alex and Tommy do big things… Again…  But now they have a friend.  And there’s altitude sickness bringing these gods down to human level, and cuddling, kind of?

And now, onto the two “showcase” films that should have been Feature Films (in my humble opinion).

This is Beth and Cenote.  I thought these two films were absolutely stellar in comparison to Cuddle and Barefoot Charles.  But, maybe I’m a biased old person who has watched Reel Rock since 2012 and is looking for more than zoning out on another Alex/Tommy trip or living in a cave with magnificent hair.  

This is Beth:

was beyond relatable, and brings about a conversation that needs to be more regular in the outdoor industry and outdoor community.  With climbing becoming more mainstream and with competitive climbing being introduced to more kids, being aware of body image and healthy eating should be a priority of climbers and coaches.  While one of the strongest, gnarliest female climbers out there, Beth Rodden talks about the image pressures of the media, the culture of competitive climbing, and the long lasting impacts of eating disorders.  The major takeaway of this film, “A body that climbs is a climber's body”... there is not a singular physical image of what a climber needs to look like. If you didn’t get a chance to watch, give this article a read!


This made me smile.  I think the pure joy and discovery was palatable while watching this visually peaceful piece.  When Fito starts climbing out of the ethereal sinkholes, thinking he was creating an amazing sport, it gives you an insight into how privileged we are to have such easy access to the gym.  It also makes you look at Barefoot Charles a little silly when Fito is so excited about obtaining his first pair of shoes, which clearly steps up his game.  He’s excited to “train” in town, climbing on everything from trees and brick walls.  It’s so peaceful to watch someone fall in love with the sport, with no competition, no grades, and no standards… and to see him driven to bring his love of climbing to the community by creating a local gym.

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