Black Book: The Review

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Would you rather have “bankruptcy of pocket, or bankruptcy of soul?”

These lines ring true in the opening scenes of Scott Lindgren’s Black Book, a biography of South Africa’s Steve Fisher – one of kayaking’s most influential athletes – and Lindgren’s best work to date.

If you started kayaking in the 1990’s, it’s easy to relate with Fisher’s escapades as the film follows his life – at the same time telling part of whitewater kayaking’s history in a Dog Town and Z-Boys-fashion. “My story is just one thread in the history of the sport,” Fisher told Paddling Life. “There are so many threads out there. Coincidentally, my career has sort of mirrored kayaking’s history.”

Black Book follows Fisher’s path from South African marathon paddler, to freestyle kayaking and creek boating phenom, enlightening viewers to the fact that South Africa was an island in the paddling world, a place where boaters like Corran Addison, Fisher and Dale Jardine learned to paddle separate from outside influence, fostering an envelope-pushing style that served them well when boating on the international scene.

And here in is one of Black Book’s greatest successes: It’s not just about Steve Fisher. As the name suggests, the movie is a personal phone book of Fisher’s friends like Addison, Jardine, the Kern brothers, Dan Campbell, Lindgren and Tyler Curtis. Each segment is anchored by another colorful character that has influenced Fisher’s life. It is triumphant too, in that the film follows an arch reflecting Fisher’s maturation process, first as a rowdy, hard-partying South African without fear, to the reality of serious injury (as when Campbell breaks his back in Canada, ending the Riot Bus era), to his homesteading on a Nile River island with long-time girlfriend Desere Pickers.

The film is not without flaws, as a strange cut of rallying an SUV parallels Fisher talking about a lack of money, but perhaps those flaws, like Fisher’s, make the movie that much more endearing….and human.

Paraphrasing Fisher’s closing remarks, we are not judged as singular characters, but by the characters we surround ourselves with. To judge Black Book and Steve Fisher, this is a movie that will live on in whitewater annals for years to come.

Joe Carberry

The Interview

While Scott Lindgren was making the Black Book, Steve Fisher was charged with the awkward assignment of helping to edit his own biography. Paddling Life asked him about this process.

PL: How was it to help create a movie about yourself?

SF: It was a bit weird, really, but quite introspective as well. I had to help Scott collect and organize all the footage because it didn’t all come from him. I got to watching the raw film and on some of the stuff I was like, “Oh that was me? That wasn’t very cool.” It taught me a lot about myself.

PL: Were you guys trying to do a history of the sport?

SF: We would never say this was a history. It’s just one thin thread. I’ve been involved in the sport during a very revolutionary era. I consider myself so lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

PL: It was pretty cool how you and Scott had to work yourselves into the flick while making it at the same time.

SF: It was a tricky thing to do. But it had to be done because Scott and I have worked closely and he’s been a big part of kayaking for me. As I’ve said, it’s not just about me. There are so many people it’s about and Scott is one of those.

PL: You kind of come away from this flick thinking, how did you come out unscathed from the off-the-water stuff, let alone your whitewater antics?

SF: My whole life, I’ve been lucky to come out relatively unscathed. Any paddler at the upper level for the last 10 years or more has had to invent stuff and experiment. We didn’t have anyone to follow or ask. Not to take away from any of the up-and-comers now but they have way more material on film to watch as far steep creeks and wave surfing. I just consider myself very lucky to be where I am today.

Check out a Black Book teaser.

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