“The epic story of Africa’s most grueling mountain race, and the local athletes who risk all for glory.”
Dorst Mediaworks Presents Volcanic Sprint. A Film by Steve Dorst and Dan Evans. 2007. Filmed on location in Buea, Cameroon. 52 mins. $19.99
After about a year of online teasers on Youtube and elsewhere, Volcanic Sprint, the long-awaited film on the Mount Cameroon race by Steve Dorst and Dan Evans is now available on DVD. Extreme sports enthusiasts and fans of the Mount Cameroon race will not regret the long wait. The final product is a beautifully produced, visually stunning and compelling hour-long film built around the trials and tribulations of a handful of athletes trying to conquer “The Chariot of the Gods” or Mount Fako, as the locals call it.
One of the individuals that the film profiles is John Ekema, winner of the inaugural race in 1971, who is trying to recapture some of the past glory through his 17-year old son. We discover Bart VanDoorne, a Belgian military officer who met his Cameroonian wife during the 2002 edition of the race and has returned with a one-year old son in tow, for another shot at the mountain.
We also discover well-trained team athletic team from the Northwest province whose members are determined to make a clean sweep in all race categories. Of course, no film on the Mount Cameroon Race can be complete without Sarah Etonge, the “Queen” of the mountain. A grandmother of seven who has won the women’s race five times, she is battling a bad knee just days before the big race. Will she be able to take part in the race which is her primary source of income? will she keep her crown?
Volcanic Sprint is, however, not one of those sappy "human interest" movies that ignore the reality to chase the shadows. It is a film about one of the most grueling but little known races in the world and the athletes who are insane enough to take part in it - a race where athletes run up a live marathon-length volcano and back, going through three major climactic zones in the process. When runners begin the race at the Molyko stadium in Buea, their main challenge is the scorching tropical heat, but by the time they make it to the summit (that is, if they make it at all…), they are confronted with sub-zero temperatures and snow. Seeing well-trained athletes, some of them from countries with very cold climates, virtually going into shock due to the very frigid temperatures at the summit is, unarguably, one of the most compelling moments in the film.
Making it to the summit of mount Fako is just one part of the puzzle; athletes must make the treacherous and heart-stopping descent – sometimes on all fours! – navigating through loose molten lava and deep ravines. One wrong move and it is instant death. This is not a race for the faint-hearted…
Volcanic Sprint shows us why the Mount Cameroon race is like no other in the world. It is about human endurance and determination in the face of incredible adversity, about the triumph of the human spirit over one of nature’s most difficult and treacherous obstacles, it is about trying to strike it rich in a land of severe hardship, but most of all, it is about the pain of failure and the thrill of victory.
Volcanic Sprint premieres in Cameroon today, February 15, at the Alliance Franco-Camerounaise in Douala. An outdoor screening will take at the Buea municipal stadium place tomorrow, February 16, at 8:00 pm, on the eve of this year’s race.