Autana DVD

© Alastair Lee/
Film-maker Alastair Lee, Leo Houlding and fellow climbers Sean Leary and Jason Pickles head deep into the Amazon in an attempt to make the first ascent of the east face of the remote tepuy Cerro Autana.

Shaky cameras, one word answer interviews, fingertip close ups on another super hard mega proj. Sick bro. There seems to be a lot of this type of climbing film out 'in the open' at the moment. I'm fairly sure I'm not alone in thinking the fly-tipping of less than average climbing films on the internet is getting tedious now. Of course it's not all bad. Anyone with a spare minute or three would do well to take a look at, and the highly entertaining podcast and blog.

Alastair Lee thankfully isn't a culprit when it comes to polluting the ether with some of the afore-mentioned 'climbing porn' that is pumped out every few days. Posing Productions release real entertaining and engaging films. A calculated mix of adventure and humour, all rolled into a feature length package of perfection. Or something like that anyway.

Autana Trailer

Running Time: 58 mins
Price: £19.99
More info/download: Posing Productions/Autana

"A calculated mix of adventure and humour, all rolled into a feature length package of perfection."

A few Posing Productions films that you would do well to watch if you haven't had the opportunity already would be the highly regarded, super classic, all-out climbing movies:

  • Set in Stone, a profile of Dave Birkett and his contribution to hard Lakeland climbing
  • Onsight, a look at how the quintessentially British ethic of onsighting is tackled in modern climbing
  • The 'Psyche' series, both Psyche 1 and 2 are made up of a series of short climbing films documenting the leading lights of British climbing

See all Posing Productions climbing DVDs here.

Autana DVD cover.  © Alastair Lee/
Autana DVD cover.
© Alastair Lee/

Autana is a beautiful film. Cinematic special effects, an epic soundtrack and superb camera work all combine to set an extremely high standard for all climbing films to follow. However I really felt that Autana wasn't a climbing film, in that there really isn't that much climbing. To be fair to the Posing Productions team, they never said that Autana was going to be a climbing film; I suppose I wrongly assumed that's what I would be getting. I am pretty sure that I'm not alone here.

Nevertheless, Autana sets out its stall as a documentary of a journey, a phenomenal adventure and the experience of exploring the Amazon with a climbing objective. Lee delivers a film of such quality that I feel it is more at home on the big screen than anywhere else. It's a proper film.

"I have pondered over the view that Mr Lee has gone a step too far in the opposite direction with his most recent release, Autana."

Cerro Autana is a tepui (rock tower or island) in the Venezuelan Amazonas. Leo Houlding embarks on a journey to attempt a new line on Autana, supported by friends and pro-climbers Sean 'Stanley' Leary and Jason Pickles. Beginning with a playboy style scene on the beach we see the guys living the high life, sunning themselves and drinking cocktails on speed boats. This is altogether a cleverly juxtaposed sequence considering the hell that ensues in the jungle amidst plagues of insects, oppressive humidity and almost impenetrable bush. As if the horrors of the jungle approach weren't bad enough, Lee utilises some psychedelic special effects to depict the 'trip' that the team experience as they follow strict Shaman tradition by taking the fearsome Yopo. Followed by sweatier, bug infested approach we finally reach the climbing footage.

"I feel Autana is more at home on the big screen than anywhere else. It's a proper film."

Leo Houlding heads up the expedition with the charm and good looks that the climbing and similarly non-climbing British public have both come to expect. A fantastic ambassador and worthy leader, Leo is portrayed in a humble yet heroic light, and to be fair, it would take most of the balls of the ladies and gentlemen reading this combined to make one massive pair, to even consider doing half of the things that he has done.

There are definitely no climbers here.  © Alastair Lee/
There are definitely no climbers here.
© Alastair Lee/

Smuggle yourself and your team into a guerrilla infested jungle; you'll be plagued with various pests and nasties, miles from anywhere or anything, pretty sketchy. What for? Oh, there's a new line to be had. It's as green as your face will be as the Yopo you just took takes hold and 'opens your mind'. Sounds like a laugh. Right? Balls indeed.

"While Autana isn't your typical climbing film, I would definitely recommend taking the time to watch it."

While Autana isn't your typical climbing film, I would definitely recommend taking the time to watch it. The bigger the screen and louder the volume the better, Alastair Lee has set this one up as a full cinematic experience. I was engrossed by the aerial footage and the 'cave' scenes, even the jungle-bashing provided some entertainment value. One criticism I would offer would be that the 'yopo trip' goes on a little too long and maybe there could have been a touch more climbing footage, although Leo and Jason sum the film up in the opening scene when they discuss, “it's not really about the climbing... it's about the whole experience... and it's definitely about the experience...”

Leo and his team, along with Alastair Lee are just back from their next adventure. The polar opposite (no pun intended) to the Autana expedition, Ulvetanna (meaning wolf's tooth) is a mission to the Antarctic to free a new line in one of the world's most extreme environments.

You can buy/download Autana here - it truly is worth a watch. If you allow yourself to enjoy it with an open mind and expectations of an adventure, you won't be disappointed.

For more information Posing Productions/Autana

18 Feb, 2013
Definately agree that the film itself is a good feature, the only downside for me was the CGI representation of the yopo experience, I saw a talk by Leo recently and his brief description of it for me worked better (something along the lines of most horrific experience ever)
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