Barely a year since Sweetgrass Productions set fire to the internet with the game-changing Afterglow, they’ve returned on form with a short mountain bike movie that looks like the offspring of Red Bull’s Rampage and a particularly technicolour acid trip…
Darklight is the result of Sweetgrass’ third collaboration with Swedish creative minds Ahlstrand and Wållgren; who once again invited TV giants Philips to the party with their next-gen Ambilight LED lighting, to bring whole swathes of riding mecca to life out of the darkness; highlighting not only the beauty of the mountainscapes, but also the effortless style of Specialized team riders Matt Hunter, Matty Miles and Graham Agassiz.
Shot over three long weeks across Southern Utah and the Pacific Northwest, the team of 27 crew and riders hauled the several tonnes of insane lighting equipment into position, and waited for the precious few hours of total darkness to fall, allowing them a couple hours of filming each night. Suffice to say, the result is completely breathtaking, and quite possibly one of the most beautiful riding segments that will ever be committed to film (although Teton Gravity Research have taken a pretty good shot at competing with their recent riding epic, unReal).
Much like Afterglow before it, Darklight offers a surprisingly relaxing, chilled-out viewing experience. This tends to be a more common theme in ski and snowboard films – which for years have slowed down footage from floaty Japan powder segments (sometimes even naked, thank you once again Sweetgrass) – although it’s a rarer thing in mountain biking. Darklight feels like the antithesis (or antidote, depending on your point of view), to the relentless, constant, heart-in-mouth viewing that events such as Rampage & Joyride tend to provide. Certainly it proves just as engaging without the substantial risks athletes at the sharp-end of mtb freeriding are now contending with…
(We’re with you Bas – #IRIDEFORPAUL)
Compared against Afterglow, the opinions on which is the better film are of course subjective – and come down largely to which sport you pin your colours to – but if it were our money, we’d say Darklight clinches it. Both are immense technical achievements, and huge credit is owed to Philips for agreeing to bring their lighting expertise into the fold on a project such as this (as well as Ahlstrand and Wållgren for having the vision); but ultimately the otherworldly, dreamscape shots at 4:47 and the psychedelic, neon glow descents through the backlit north shore trails show Director Mike Brown has taken learnings from the first production to give the bike film an edge in our minds.
Whatever. This is some truly hypnotising action sports cinema. Don’t just snatch a view of the video on your train home – find somewhere dark and quiet to sit and watch it properly. It’s so worth it.