GFF video/DVD review

A Backyard in Nowhere

A Fly Fishing Western

Lo and behold! A fishing DVD that warns about profanity, nudity, drugs and alcohol on the cover! And actually features it all inside along with some really well produced large pike fishing from Alaska and some portraits of people, locals, not-so-locals and strangers, who all have their characteristics and opinions. Heehaw!!

Instructor, narrator, producer etc.: Smatis Film and Sellfish Media
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Smatis Film and Sellfish Media
A Backyard in Nowhere
Smatis Film and Sellfish Media, 2011
50 minutes
Sample/trailer from GFF Videos

GFF rating: 6 out of 7
Global Class

Reviewed by Martin Joergensen

After having seen this DVD, I'm reminded in many ways about my feelings after having seen the first of AEG's videos, Trout Bum Diaries.
They move things, do things differently and definitely break with the norms.
AEG had the advantage of being the first to do so (on released DVDs at least). The Danish guys behind A Backyard in Nowhere are not copycats, but have their very own take on telling us the story of a fantastic experience, hunting for trophy pike on the river Innoko in Alaska.

This is indeed a gung-ho video from a gung-ho trip, which has all the hallmarks of an adventure into the blue. The guys went for trophy pike, but got so much more including invaluable local contacts, guns, blood, weed smoking and unpleasant confrontations with professional outfitters, who seemed to consider the water theirs and not exactly public and freely accessible (which it is!).

The video also tells us the thoughts of the participants through small and very well placed interviews, where each angler has a chance to express his sentiments about the planning, the fishing, the people they meet and much more. These little quiet spots are a very welcome break in the fast paced action that makes out most of the trip, whether it's in the fishing sequences, meeting the locals, the hunting sequences or the confrontation with the guide service Midnight Sun, who obviously thinks that they own part of Alaska, and certainly don't welcome independent travelers not using their paid services.

My most lasting impression is that of the locals. Having traveled in Greenland and the North West Territories in Canada, the meeting between the local Inuits and the open minded anglers rang many bells. I could very easily recognize the mix of sometimes latent and at other times very obvious hostility and very warm friendship that can be found in these areas. These folks live a tough life, and living off nature with hunting and fishing as a natural part of life, as well as the more or less severe and very unfortunate drug and alcohol misuse, is something that is found in almost all Inuit societies.
But as harsh as it seems at first, just as warm and welcoming it can be if you embrace it a bit. You don't need to drink or smoke (even though it does help!), but you need not to condemn this lifestyle, and soon you will be met with warmth and helpfulness, which is luckily a deeply rooted part of the culture in the north.
For people who haven't been there, it's most likely a sudden awakening to meet locals who smoke and drink while on a moose hunt - and we're not just talking tea with plenty sugar and cigarettes! Different substances as well as guns and a very forward use of the more colorful parts of language is the way of life, and this video makes no effort to hide that fact.

I find it very relieving and a great plus for the video that this part of the trip has gotten its attention too. There's a lot of really rough language and no beeps to mask it. Some viewers with delicate ears might be offended, but I was really glad that nothing had been done to hide the fact that life and language is as it is up here. Regarding the nudity, drinking and the use of mildly illegal substances, it's no big deal and nothing I found anywhere near offensive. It's 2011 after all... I don't endorse handling guns (or boats for that matter) under influence, but this is different territory.

And the fishing, then? What about the fishing? Well, it's beyond anything I have seen with regards to pike fishing! Pike seems to be the new black in fly fishing, and is covered more and more intensely in writing, pictures and video. This is about as black and as good as it gets. One large pike after another attacks the flies and seems to go very close to boats and anglers in the pursuit of the artificial. Some scenes are if not scaring then at least very exciting! The whole pike experience is very well caught on the video, and both the fascination, the beauty and the gruesome nature of these toothy critters is shown in super high quality and with great technical skill and a very smooth production. For once I was only partly bothered by the slow scenes, which do add some beauty and detail to the fighting sequences. And yes, this video has both stop motion and slo-mo... it seems unavoidable in modern videos, and soon I'll simply have to stop bitching about it and accept that I'm fighting a tidal wave.

The production as a whole is very well done with excellent cutting, great rhythm and a nice soundtrack. The video is in general of extremely high quality except for a few "hidden camera" scenes that catch the brawl with the aforementioned outfitters, and even that part works very well. You will also get some Go-Pro POV footage, but just enough to give the impression of being there, and not so much that you tire of curved lines and shaken images.
Altogether we're talking a very well told story with a natural progression, a good underlying story line, and a suitable running time allowing it to unfold and end with a good pace.

Last but not least the narrator Don Capone deserves a mention. His voice perfectly underlines the western quality that these guys wanted, and reminds me of all archetype cowboys. Think Sam Elliott as the narrating cowboy who introduces "The Dude" and later appears in the bar in The Big Lebowski or Lee Marvin in almost any of his cowboy roles, and you get the idea.

This is definitely a Global Class product, not to be missed by any pike angler, and also a great 50 minutes of refreshingly different entertainment for any fisherman.

You can read much more about A Backyard in Nowhere in this Q&A with the guys behind the DVD.

Stills from the video

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