Perhaps best known for the Long Way Round and Long Way
Down travel documentaries filmed with his close friend Ewan
McGregor, Charley Boorman has come a long way since his brief
appearance as a child in his father John Boorman’s classic film
Deliverance; in collaboration with director Russ Malkin, Boorman
has documented his travels around the world on his beloved motorbike
for the entertainment of the home viewer. The well travelled pair
returned to our screens with their new series Extreme Frontiers,
first tackling the scenic wilds of Canada before setting off to
South Africa for this release.
One of the main draws of Boorman’s travel documentaries, aside from
the gorgeous locales of course, is his everyman sensibility, which
is on full display in this leg of his travels. His enthusiasm for
venturing to new locations is infectious and this sense of wonder is
relayed to the viewer to great effect, turning the experience into
one where you feel as if you’re tagging along for an adventure with
an old friend.
The biking aspect of the journey takes a bit of a backseat this time
to the splendour of the locations this time around; Charley and Russ
commandeer a bike each to travel from place to place and are closely
followed by a 4WD towing a trailer in case of emergencies.
Ironically Boorman and his crew end up facing issues with the
emergency trailer itself quite early on in their journey, in scenes
that will be familiar to many who’ve had a trailer malfunction at
the most inopportune of moments.
The series opens with Boorman abseiling down the face of a 3500 foot
mountain, with a massive drop into thin air about fifty feet down;
this is an awe inspiring way to open the program and it only gets
better as the series progresses. Throughout the six episodes
included on this release Boorman cage dives with Great White Sharks,
explores the health benefits of natural sulphur springs, visits the
prison that housed Nelson Mandela and navigates the dizzying heights
and narrow roads of the notorious Sani Pass, made even more
dangerous by the presence of ice.
These examples are just a small taste of the adventures Boorman
embarks upon, with an entertaining mix of cultural exploration and
risk-taking endeavours serving to keep viewers on the edge of their
seats whilst educating them on the finer points of South African
life. The series closes out with Boorman heading the vanguard of a
300 strong convoy of bikers as they journey through the beautiful
backdrop of Cape Town.
Some of the tamer segments can admittedly be less interesting than
the more “extreme” scenes featuring Lion hunting, Crocodiles, Hippos
and other potentially life threatening encounters, but Boorman’s
obvious passion for his job carries the program along admirably.
Interesting little asides such as his flirtatious interactions with
a jovial petrol station attendant and a touching encounter with a
mother who lost her daughter to H.I.V adds a human element to the
program as Boorman immerses himself in the customs of the South
African people, offering an outsiders perspective on a way of life
unfamiliar to many viewers.
Madman has released the series with an extremely competent transfer
with no signs of compression or crushing evident and a crisp and
clear audio track. The visual quality really serves to illustrate
the profound beauty of the environments and the terrific camerawork
by Russ Malkin and his crew. One curious thing that I did notice was
although the runtime of each episode is stated at 52 minutes on the
back of the cover, they actually run closer to 45 minutes in total.
There are no special features included on this release, unless you
count subtitles for the hard of hearing.
I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Travelogue programs, in that I
rarely seek them out of my own volition (Although Wildboyz
was a guilty pleasure of mine for a while there), but I found myself
really enjoying Extreme Frontiers – South Africa. The
highlights of the country depicted in the series are much more lush
and beautiful than I realised and its rich culture and fascinating
history makes it an ideal choice for Boorman and Co. to explore in
their unique style and going some way to show a different side of
the country, dispelling the perception that South Africa is defined
almost by its reputation of being dangerous for travellers.
As mentioned above, the show isn’t really heavily focused on the
travelling by bike format the Long Way Round series was
famous for, instead relying on the different distinctive experiences
the country offers to adventurous travellers and Boorman’s exciting
– and occasionally life threatening – participation in these.
Stylistically Reminiscent of shows like the Billy Connolly World
Tour programs, Charley Boorman’s Extreme Frontiers – South
Africa is a consistently entertaining and informative series
that will appeal to armchair adventures and travel