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Directed by James Moll and narrated and executive-produced by Matt
Damon, RUNNING THE SAHARA is a uplifting and socially aware documentary
chronicling the 111-day run coast to coast across the Sahara Desert
completed by a team of three experienced runners (Charlie Engle from
America, Ray Zahab from Canada, and Kevin Lin from Taiwan).
Initiated by Ray simply because no human being has ever done it before, the three agree to undertake this challenge together. Each has their character and motivation, but they accomplish the expedition collectively. This film details the journey's physical and emotional impact on the runners. It is about team-spirit, challenge, discovery, and most importantly believing and materialising one's dream.
The group's incredible voyage which covers 6 countries is met with various problems (the heat, sand storms, unknown visa and terrorist situation, injuries, and even self-doubt). Yet their strenuous experience is not without joyous and touching moments such as the arrival of their family, encouragement from friends, and the village children's greeting and running along with them.
This character-driven film provides a complex picture of culturally-vibrant Africa its mysteriously beautiful but extremely merciless desert, and its acute water problems (evidenced through the 7-year-old boy left alone in wilderness to wait for the return of his water-searching parents, and the primitive well-digging method). With the charitable H2O Africa campaigning for clean water being a component of the expedition, it is for sure that to ease the water crisis in the Continent will no longer remain a unfulfilled mission impossible.
this is a great documentary which is handicapped by the overwhelming
assholery of the lead runner. socially conscious and well filmed in
parts of the world that most Americans know little to nothing about,
the movie only drags when the lead runner is either having a tantrum or
acting in a manner befitting Machiavelli. the sight of the Sahara
desert seems the only locale big enough to move comfortably about with
his over inflated ego unencumbered. a scene late in the movie has the
organizer trying to explain that he has to leave and the run has gone
over schedule, that he has prior engagements, yet the lead runner and
central character seems to act like a juvenile in exaggerating the
whole thing to some kind of horrible betrayal. then very late in the
movie he convinces the other two runners that he can't run, only walk
and that they should stay behind and rest and catch up to him as he
walks. then completely disregarding what he has told them he runs
anyways forcing them to play catch up. the whole thing comes off as
manipulative, the egotistical actions of some inner psycho drama. this
pecker doesn't deserve the hot wife who occasionally pops up in the
movie, he seems like on of those preternaturally obsessed characters
from the Hostel movies.
when the prima donna isn't engaging in his drama queen antics there's moments of great beauty and informative analysis. one observation notes of a nomadic people on the Niger border for whom freedom of travel is so central to their life that they refer to houses as "tombs of the living". of course that's easy to say for people who have probably never been much of anywhere else in the world but their familiar grounds.
6 out of 10
Running The Sahara is a documentary about how three long distance runners manage to take on a near impossible feat:running across the continent of Africa,from the west,to Egypt. Charlie Engle,Kevin Lin & Ray Zahab took the risk,mainly because nobody else had ever done it. We see as the three start their journey in the west,and over a period of 111 days,and thousands of miles,manage to attempt something that has never been done before. James Moll,known mainly for his work as a documentary film maker for television,turns in a fine portrayal of the endurance of the human spirit. Along the way,the hapless three come across many stunning sights in the deserts,encounter a number of desert dwellers (including a seven year old boy who had never seen a white person before),and try & help some of the water issues plaguing some of the areas they come across. As with any undertaking of this sort,at times things are not so rosy (they deal with attitude issues,pain---both physical,as well as emotional,and other things associated with people concentrated together for a period of time). Some crisp cinematography & editing make this a fine film that would be at home either on the theater screen,but would play equally well on the small screen,too. Matt Damon supplies some fine narration for this outing (and was equally instrumental in assisting in the Africa H2O project to bring much needed water to areas in the desert). Spoken mainly in English,but also has some Cantonese & French,with English subtitles. Not rated by the MPAA,but contains some brief strong language.
i thought this was a very interesting,engaging documentary.it shows what you can achieve will a lot of will determination,and drive.the narration(by Matt Damon)is very good,but minimal,which is a good thing.the film is about the three runners after all,so the focus should be mostly on them.though a lot of the film is just desert,(which is spectacular,and you get an idea of the vastness,)there are times when the runners do encounter some beautiful scenery along the way.they also meet some interesting people,as well.it would have been nice to have a followup with the runners after some times had passed to get there reflection on the experience then,and see how what their thoughts were at that point and what else they had planned,if anything(there is a brief snippet about that during the end credits,but nothing in depth.still,i enjoyed it.for me,Running the Sahara is an 8/10
Running 4,500 miles is something most of us will never do, so how lucky
we are to have a film that shows three men and a small support crew
doing exactly this.
The documentary's biggest strength is its realistic account of ways that team members dealt with the inevitable struggles among them and with the doubts in each one's minds about the constant challenges, mental and physical. At the end one of the runners comments that we are all limited by the goals we set for ourselves. Words to live by! Anyone who sees this film is likely to consider expanding his or her personal goals.
Given the impossible terrain--with sandstorms, heat, and access to virtually no local technology--the cinematography is outstanding, capturing the unimaginable beauty of the desert and handsomeness of the lonely, unfamiliar places the runners encountered.
At a few points when the team's mood was low, the film sank into an uncomfortable, bitchy reality TV format. Regrettably also, the coverage of the diversity of cultures and geography they ran past was necessarily cursory (note pun opportunity here). But the reward for enduring these shortcomings is an unparalleled opportunity to experience untold human strength.
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