The Warm Heart Of Africa from Vast Motion Pictures on Vimeo.
In 2012 we had the chance to visit South Africa to film bouldering in Rocklands. While bouldering there is amazing, we could not help but ask ourselves if there was good bouldering in other parts of Africa. With only sattelite imagery from Google Earth as information, we decided to bet on the small, overlooked country of Malawi. This Summer, climbers Mélissa Le Nevé and Benjamin Rueck flew to Malawi, knowing almost nothing about the country. They quickly discovered why the country is called “The Warm Heart of Africa”.
adidas.com/outdoor presents a VAST MOTION PICTURES production
Producer, Director and Editor: Haroun Souirji
Cinematographers: Haroun Souirji, Julie Guignier
Sound Mix: Laurent Mollard
Still Photography: Scott Noy
It’s been a wild ride! The Malawi expedition is over and it did not disappoint… here is a brief insight in the trip. Proper articles will be released later and a full behind the scene post will be made after the release of the video. The behind the scene articles will also include tips for aspiring filmmakers.
Malawi is a surprising country at many levels. Right after landing you get a retina scan and your fingerprints taken (digitally), which leaves you thinking “this is going to be an interesting trip…”. This will only be your first of a long list of encounters with security in Malawi. You will cross an average of two checkpoints per day, but unlike any other country we have been in Africa, it will always be to welcome you or ask where you are going. Never to ask for a “tip”. This is how people are in Malawi: smiling, welcoming and eager to help you despite extreme poverty.
Next thing that might surprise you is how few tourists you will see. Locals will tell you it’s HIGH SEASON (!!) but you can spend days without meeting other foreigners. The consequence is that people are very curious about what you are doing. If you go bouldering and the rocks happen to be next to a village you will probably be followed by 10 kids to the rocks. This can get a bit hectic when you try to reach your car after climbing as the number can grow to 20-30 kids. More in future articles.
When you finally make it to the rocks you will be astonished by how many boulders there are. Literally thousands, sometimes in one area. Quality really depends on the crag. From flaky but abundant boulders (which requires more cleaning time that we had) to top quality but rarely featured ones, there is a wide variety of granite boulders. Huecos, arretes, crimps… there is pretty much evering granite bouldering can offer if you have the motivation and time to explore. Some parts will remind you of Hampi and others of Bishop. If you can cope with bouldering by 28-32°C, you will love the weather as it only rained one day during our 27days long trip.
There will be much more content published in the near future: the actual video, behind the scene edit, articles with advice for people that want to go there and more. Before we leave you with a couple more photos, we would like to thank our rental house partner Axis-One.be who was kind enough to lend us some SWEET cinema gear for this trip!
This is it. Finally going back to Africa!
After a little over a year, I am back in Africa to film climbing. But unlike the Rocklands doc, this is all about exploring and developing new bouldering areas. The place we are heading has never had any bouldering team visiting. Climbers have only bouldered on a few rocks on the shore of Lake Malawi on Climb Hot Rock’s travels in Africa. In fact the only place with recorded climbing ascents in Malawi is Mount Mulanje where climbers have established big wall climbing some time ago now. After this trip with climbers Mélissa Le Nevé and Ben Rueck this will change. I will also be going with production team members Scott Noy and Julie Guignier.
The decision to go to Malawi was made after I located boulder fields on Google Earth. In fact I was lucky to locate some in 3 very different environments. They are numerous and they are BIG. Only unknown is the quality of the rock… As Malawi is free from mass tourism and has barely been visited by climbers, it is mission impossible to find info about the quality of the rock. For example, all I have about one of the areas is the photo above… The boulders are big (up to 30m according to Google Earth) but what about the solidity, the grain, … hence “mineral gambling”.
So why make such a trip when you do not know what the rock is going to be like? There are many reasons to go for such an adventure…
For one, well, it is an adventure. I find it hard to call adventure going to a place you know everything about, and how things are going to work out. Malawi is unknown territory for us. You get information on the internet but no fellow friend can tell you what it’s like to go climbing there. Also, Malawi is the most “tropical” bouldering destination in Africa I know about. It stays warm all year long (average temp of 20-25° in southern winter). This has a few implications. One of them is that snakes do not hibernate… unlike in Rocklands. And Malawi is home of many snake species (tarantulas too), including the most dangerous snake of Africa: the black mamba. That is why for the first we will be bringing an Aspivenin kit on a bouldering mission.
Filming wise we will have more gear than on any other project I have worked on. Partly because I own more video equipment but also because we have partnered with a rental house (www.axis-one.be, leading rental house in Belgium). Thanks to them we will have cinema lenses and more… Very excited about shooting!
If you want to follow this trip, check the blog once in a while. We will also post updates and photos on instagram and twitter. Expect the short (and a making of video) sometime at the end of the year.
The plane is in a few hours. Wish us luck!
First photo: copyright Stevie Mann.
I am happy to share the news that Haroun Souirji Productions is now Vast Motion Pictures. When I started making videos, I was working alone. Production, directing, shooting, editing, etc… I was also building my own gear. As the projects grew in size, I recently started collaborating with others. So it is time to start presenting my projects as a WE instead of an I. For those who are afraid this changes the style and honest point of view of my work, I want to stress that I will still be directing all the projects released through Vast Motion Pictures. I will also produce the vast majority of them and am still the director of photography. What changes now is that I have the opportunity to work with talented people (camera assistants, sound designers, photographers…) to elevate the production value of my work. If things work as planned, I might be hiring someone full time next year. The projects I am only directing or doing the cinematography will be presented on www.harounsouirji.com.
The date for this announcement is not random. Tomorrow I will be travelling to Africa for my next project. Even though it is a short video, It is my biggest project so far. A 3 weeks exploration of the bouldering potential of a country with no established bouldering area yet. You will know more about this project in the dedicated blog post that will be released before I leave for the airport. This project is not your usual bouldering flick so stay tuned. The blog will cover the expedition as will the Vast twitter, instagram and facebook accounts. Check the blog tomorrow!
The blog will turn into a full website in September. It will contain lots of information about Vast’s projects and you will even be able to listen to the music of my present and past projects. Stay tuned for more!