By: Addison Wylie
Carl Boenish wanted to test the human spirit. In doing so, his willingness to jump off breathtaking heights pioneered what we know now as “BASE jumping”. Filmmaker Marah Strauch has matched Boenish’s go-getter attitude and gumption with Sunshine Superman, a documentary about the jumper’s fearless outlook and how he serves as an inspiration for adventure and living life to its fullest.
If you’ve seen James Marsh’s Man on Wire, you’ll sense Marah Strauch’s film trying to emulate it in many ways; including the high stakes, the representation of the film’s daring subject, and the aftermath influenced by intrepid achievements. Strauch has even used a similar style of reenactments Marsh used in his doc about tightrope walker Philippe Petit.
The documentarian, however, knows not to copy. Sunshine Superman has its own distinctive “wow” factor that while hitting the same level of inspiration Marsh cracked into, comes across as entirely new. Also, if you squint, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the filmmaker herself playing the role of Carl’s wife, Jean.
Sunshine Superman has incredible cinematography, though most of it comes courtesy of Carl’s base jumping team. Boenish was always interested in the art of filmmaking, and used various ways to capture stunts. He was one of the first to attach a camera to a jumper’s head, and his makeshift contraption used to capture wider shots has to be seen to be believed.
Strauch doesn’t worry about going too far back into Carl’s youth, and would rather focus on Boenish’s story once his exciting mantra took hold of him. In this case, this decision works because Sunshine Superman is about what Boenish hoped to accomplish with his acts of courage. We hear him remind the media and his faithful wife as to why he does the things he does, and his high spirits remain genuine.
Sunshine Superman is an incredibly well made film that qualifies as a “must-see”. However, something has to be said about the film’s perfect finale. The choice of music and the visual allegory is the cherry on Strauch’s delectable cake. Like Carl’s filmmaking contraptions, it has to be seen to be believed.