To begin with, this WILL NOT be the typical movie review.
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.
How do you contain a life without limits? That just might be the question that pushed CARL BOENISH to his most dizzying heights. It's the type of inspirational question you may ask yourself after watching SUNSHINE SUPERMAN.
SUNSHINE SUPERMAN, director Marah Strauch's first documentary, attempts to show us the answer to that question as it delves into the life and passion of skydiving enthusiast Carl Boenish. This eight year in the making film, lunges into the life long love of Boenish's, BASE jumping.
For the uninitiated, BASE jumping, a term coined by Carl, is a type of free-fall parachuting from a base. BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth. A leap from one of these earns a jumper a base number.
In a way, this film attempts to answer the question of living life without limits. Using much of Boenish's own footage, you are taken inside the daring and transcendent passion of the man. It is a skydiver's eye view of a man who lived the type of life that when asked to jump didn't question how high, but if it was high enough to jump?
You are shown a Carl Boenish who lived in two worlds, one of physical limitations (he survived and bested polio as a child) and one of celestial aspirations. He could see the beauty beyond the danger and sought to safely capture it on film by pushing the limits of human experience.
Using archival footage, energetic reenactments, and poignant interviews, Strauch guides the film through the highs and lows of Carl, his wife, and his devoted followers' base jumping exploits.
A USC grad, Carl worked as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft. But that work was secondary to his love of skydiving. It was that love which led to a contract with MGM to do free-fall camera work for the 1969 film THE GYPSY MOTHS. This led to the founding of his own company PHOTO-CHUTING ENTERPRISES that produced and filmed segment and shorts on skydiving. It also led to his meeting what would become the most stabilizing element in his life, his future wife Jean.
Determined to push the frontier, Boenish and his cohorts turned to BASE jumping, which at the time was largely unknown and illegal. His filmed leaps from EL CAPITAN in Yosemite would bring him and the sport more notoriety, and legal pressure. But Carl and his fellow jumpers, wife included, would push on and in their wake ignite a fire amoung fellow thrill seekers.
Today's skydivers, wingsuit wearers, sky surfers, etc. owe a huge debt of gratitude him.
On July 5th 1984, Carl Boenish successfully set the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest base jump from Trollveggen (Troll Wall) Mountain in Norway.
On July 7th, Boenish was found dead on Troll Wall after an unsuccessful from a more precarious peak.
On July 9th, his wife Jean successfully duplicated her husband's record jump. She never jumped again.
After viewing this film, I was left to question if, like Carl, I am living a life without limits? Am I pushing the boundaries of experience? Am I riding the current of my passion?
As a self-professed writer, my days are often spent behind a screen and keyboard. Far too often life seems to be something that is reported, documented, or crafted on a blank page and not wholly lived. But SUNSHINE SUPERMAN has inspired me. And not just by Carl's "aura of life," but by his devotion to his passion. As a writer I need to continue to take BIG bite out of life. Gulp them down and chew for more. It is in eating up (living) experiences that authorship becomes fresh, and nuanced. And Vibrant. And ALIVE.
I may never know what makes a person decide to jump from dizzying heights. But I too can make a leap of faith.