Kiki Bosch is a professional ice freediver from the Netherlands; she dives into the coldest waters on the planet on one breath without a wetsuit, from the iceberg fjords of Greenland to the frozen lakes of Finland. Sounds cool, but Nays Baghai‘s documentary starts of with a trigger warning – viewer discretion is advised. After all, ice freediving is a very dangerous extreme sport that is not to be performed alone under any circumstances.

Why would you risk your life doing something so crazy?“. Kiki knows this is the question on many lips when people find out what it is she does. As she goes on, “it’s all about accepting the pain of the cold and resisting the urge to breathe, so you don’t panic.” This is exactly what made her overcome depression, trauma and self doubt, after being sexually assaulted by someone she trusted, as she recalls in an emotional confession. Kiki always loved the water, as we see via reenactments of her memories, explaining how her passion for swimming and nature came to be.

Ever since she discovered the joys of cold water freediving and overcame her scars, Kiki has travelled far and wide, not only to push her physical and psychological limits, but also to inspire others to harness the power of the cold in similar ways. Retelling her own story, we get to see footage shot by friends and crew, switching to neuroscientists and instructors who explain exactly what goes through your mind, and what the dangers of this extreme sport are. After a video of her ice freediving between the North American and European tectonic plates in Iceland without any protective gear, went viral, she knew her life would never be the same again. For Kiki, the cold has been therapeutic or as she likes to call it – “the pinnacle of mindfulness”. When she dives, she finds herself.

Descent‘s underwater cinematography is simply breathtaking. From the icy waters underneath the icecaps of Greenland, to in between the enormous mountains of New Zealand’s Milford Sound, you’ve never seen these places like you do in this inspiring doco. The start of the third act is a very intense and haunting experience that keeps you on the edge of your seat by how scary this extreme sport can be and how there’s a totally different world underneath the water surface. The editing of Kiki’s scenes, in which she recounts her life and career isn’t as technically strong as the rest of the film, yet ‘Descent’ is a very strong first feature by promising filmmaker Nays Baghai.

Descent‘ expands as soon as Kiki Bosch takes us underwater, like a guide descending into her own new world. An at times claustrophobic look at someone’s personal journey into the darkest depths of her mind, while finding her true self again to be free, once and for all.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Descent‘ is screening as part of Melbourne Documentary Film Festival:

Tickets available HERE

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Descent’

Reviewed online, June 16, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 62 min.

PRODUCTION: A Running Cloud Productions production. Producers: Nays Baghai, Eero Heinonen. Executive producer: Mehrdad Baghai.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Nays Baghai. Camera: Stefan Andrews, Nays Baghai, Eero Heinonen. Editor: Nays Baghai. Music: Kailesh Reitmans.

STARRING: Kiki Bosch, Stefan Andrews, Mikael Koski, Wim Hof

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