As someone who hasn't yet had the luxury of leaving my home continent, it's locations like those found in One World (2004) that make me want to explore this big blue ball we live on. Granted, it's not the most informative account of world culture; instead, it's a lively romp through Zambia, Uganda, Costa Rica, China, Kyrgyzstan and Norway by way of kayak (and beat up old van, of course). Participating in this whitewater tour are a number of enthusiastic athletes including Ben Brown, Steve Fisher, Jimi Scott, Ben Selznick and many more. Needless to say, they're pretty psyched about the adventure: not only do they get to do what they love most, but they get to check out some new places while they're at it. As a cubicle monkey, I'm certainly green with envy.
Filmed in Hi-Definition video, we join the group as they battle the rapids, take in the culture and try some tasty new food along the way. Even so, it's more of a feast for the eyes than a genuinely educational romp---but hey, documentaries don't always have to be stuffy, right? Even so, One World's main drawback is, unfortunately, the film's main objective: it's more of a souvenir-style, "wish you were here" video than anything else. For all the interesting visuals and exciting banter between the participants, it's only so much fun to watch this stuff on the small screen. In short, you probably had to actually be there to get the full effect. This certainly doesn't ruin the viewing experience, but it keeps the documentary from being much more than a full-motion postcard.
A skillfully shot postcard, but a postcard nonetheless.
Even so, it's hard to fault a documentary---the third in a series, actually---that was obviously a labor of love for those involved. The athletes' enthusiasm is infectious throughout, as this 70-minute film breezes by…despite never feeling like it's rushing things. Although the video quality isn't quite as good as it could have been (more on that later), there's no doubt that this is one of the better independently produced documentaries shot on the fly. From the "kayak cam" to more traditional talking head interview footage, this is a purely visual affair that's worth a weekend look. A more complete DVD presentation would have easily earned One World a higher recommendation, but it's still a decent little package, all things considered. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
The audio is also fairly decent, as this film is presented with your choice of 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround mixes. The 2.0 sounds fairly flat, but the 5.1 opens up the soundstage nicely, offering clear dialogue and immersive music. The audio recorded on location is confined to the front channels---even then, mostly the center---but the added soundtrack helps to fill out the atmosphere reasonably. It's not as dynamic as I was hoping for, but this is more than adequate given the circumstances.
The presentation is simple but it's got the basics covered. The static menu designs are easy to use, making for quick and easy navigation. The 70-minute film is divided into 17 chapters, while no layer change was detected during playback. The packaging is oddly designed, as this one-disc release is housed in a white keepcase with horizontal front and back cover artwork (and an upside-down spine!). No inserts have been included, though the final packaging may be different.
One World is a decent documentary, but this is a slightly disappointing DVD overall. While I really wasn't expecting a top-shelf effort, the lack of anamorphic enhancement and thin bonus features could have been fixed easily. Those interested in world cultures, exotic locations and (of course) kayaking may want to look into this DVD, but it's not quite solid enough to be considered blind buy material. Even so, One World is worth a weekend look for the adventurous. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is a moderately affable art instructor and gallery assistant based in Harrisburg, PA, who also enjoys freelance graphic design and illustration. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.