I’ve never watched an entire film so intensely scared and anxious for the actors, that all the muscles in my body have ached the next few days afterwards.

And that’s exactly what happened after 78 minutes of watching “Pretty Strong” – and there were no actors in this show.

Pretty Strong is the debut film released by Never Not Collective, a group that “seeks to tell the stories of everyday people doing great things, brave things, things that are challenging, engaging and gratifying – regardless of success”, and the film delivers this ethos in bountiful spades.

Pretty Strong is a climbing film, which follows an extraordinary group of female rock climbers, as they challenge themselves physically and mentally to scale impossible rock faces in some of the world’s most challenging climbs. 

Full disclosure – I am not a climber (read: never climbed in my life), I did not understand the climbing jargon sprinkled throughout the film, however this did not in any way detract from the incredible stories depicted in the film.  They’d been a lot of hype around this film, as the first covering the achievements of female climbers, and it didn’t disappoint!

The film is opened with the story of Nina and Kate who are granite climbing the “Father Time” face in the Yosemite Valley.  The philosophy of Nina and Kate, who physically attached themselves to a vertical face to sleep for the night, is that as climbers, they fail 99% of the time, but it’s the want to succeed, and achieve a climb that counts – each failed attempt adds to the experience and richness of the opportunity.  They achieve the first ever female ascent during filming.

Next up was the unflappable Isabelle, who along with her partner, are travelling the world to free climb rock faces, and offered up these wee gems: “don’t let your self-worth be defined what other people’s opinion of what self-worth is” and “believe in yourself whatever other people or you think”.

Hazel and Jessa were introduced next, flash climbers who seemed to defy gravity, and deal with snakes, heat, ivy and ticks in scaling their chosen rock face with more elegance than I could ever muster while climbing a ladder, let alone dangling off a sheer cliff from a great height.

Lastly, a group of climbers from Mexico, with a steadfast focus on family and community were followed on their quest to conquer ‘Andrada’s Project’, and in particular, the determination of climber Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Galvan.  Maria was once Mexico’s top climber, after taking a four-year break from teaching at her climbing school, she is determined to get back into technical climbing.  Over a week, she tried time and time again to complete the climb, failing again and again at a particular segment, until finally she made it all the way to the top.  The delight and exhilaration of her achievement was captured perfectly, along with the dogged determination and frustration over previous days of repeated failures, toward finally achieving her goal.

This is an extraordinary and must-see debut film from Never Not Collective, and a true testament that women can, really, do anything they put their mind to.

I purchased my tickets to the online premiere of Pretty Strong through Adventure Plus Films.

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