I have to admit: The Race to Alaska isn’t the kind of documentary I’m drawn to, let alone like. It isn’t about murder or an immense crime. It doesn’t explore a global crisis or the future of mankind. It isn’t fucked up.
And yet the visual beauty and simple niceness of this doc, about a nautical race from Washington state to Ketchikan, Alaska that is in turn more about the journey than the winner, sweeps you off your feet within minutes. Though there are precious moments, this is no Deadliest Catch; nor does it care to build suspense around the race itself. The Race to Alaska is about people—some experienced, some less so—who decided it would be fun or worthwhile to push themselves to the limit for days or weeks on end to go from Point A to Point B.
Director Zach Carver doesn’t aim to do with this film anything more than just that: tell stories, capture the essence of these sailors, and depict the natural beauty of the northwestern coast of North America. In doing so, he at once lets the current carry the film as well as steers the ship to welcoming shores, delivering a gorgeous, peaceful, and st times gripping experience.
The winner receives $10,000. The runner up; steak knives. As with most of the participants, Carver cares little about the outcome of the race, the one thing that holds this doc back. Featuring interspersed footage and interviews from several years of the race, there is no one winner nor a pack of competitors to which you can rally around; this is not that kind of a film. The Race to Alaska is about the journey, not the finish line; even so, a race without a race only can go for so long before losing steam. The same can be said here: as engrossing as it is at times, by the time the finish nears, it’s time to jump ship.
Thankfully, the journey was worth it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.