Cutri’s documentary examines the world of extreme sports including socio-economic factors and peak in participation.
Extreme sports continue to fascinate and entertain the public even after their long history beginning in the 1950s. It is nearly impossible to peel your eyes from the seemingly superhuman feats athletes perform as they fly, jump and twist through the air. Safety is put on the backburner as participants appear to defy human limitations.
In recent years, there has been a boom in the popularity of these kinds of sports. Although School of Communications professor Chris Cutri does not participate in extreme sports himself, he is passionate about understanding the spike in participation because of his previous projects focused on the sociology of sports.
“These pursuits are becoming more and more common,” Cutri said. “I wanted to find out why.”
The documentary — filmed entirely in black and white — was recently picked up by First Run Features — a prominent distributor of independent films based in New York City. Cutri’s film explores the psychology of extreme sports such as wingsuit jumping, ultramarathons and highlining.
The film begins with a quote from author and commentator Karen Armstrong stating that “we are meaning-seeking creatures and, unlike other animals, fall very easily into despair if we fail to make sense of our lives.” Throughout the film, Cutri endeavors to further understand why and how humans attempt to find this meaning.
Although the film certainly gives viewers a unique glimpse into the minds of adrenaline-seeking athletes, questions of socio-economic issues within extreme sports culture are also addressed.
“I could see that the issues of race and class were tied into these activities and I found that intriguing,” Cutri stated. “Research indicates that most participants in these activities are middle/upper class and mostly white males. You start to wonder why this demographic is interested in these activities compared to other groups.”
Along with examining socioeconomic factors, the film seeks to uncover why these intense sports have become more popular in recent years. Cutri investigates the allure of extreme sports closely focusing on the self discovery often associated with participation.
“The idea that extreme sports become an opportunity to ‘find oneself’ came up often. I found it fascinating how these activities have a pseudo-spiritual quality to them,” Cutri said.
Cutri talked with a sociologist who explained that because of the increase in mental work rather than physical work in our society today, extreme sports become a way for humans to explore their physical limits.
“Most of our ‘work’ is mental, but we still have bodies,” Cutri noted. “Extreme sports may be a way to give more meaning to our bodies, even though we don’t use them the same way we used to.”
The documentary also includes interviews with Marshall Miller, Cory Reese and Matt Park — all elite athletes of extreme sports. The inside look into their dangerous world uncovers why so many people are willing to put their lives on the line in the name of thrill-seeking.
Cutri expressed how the year-long process of making the film allowed him to dive deep into his passion for the topic. Although the film required time and hard work to coordinate schedules, attend the various sporting events and assemble the story, Cutri feels that it was worth it in the end.
“My advice to students pursuing creative projects is to choose a topic you are super passionate about,” Cutri said. “I was really interested in finding more answers about this topic, so the research aspect and actual filming was enjoyable. Being passionate about the topic, whatever that may be, makes the experience much more interesting and fulfilling.”