The project began as part of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Valais, one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. Valais itself has 13 districts, and this is why its flag has 13 stars. For photographer David Carlier, it developed into a monumental two-year project.
Rafting on the Aletsch glacier, photo by David Carlier
The result is David’s first full-length feature film titled ‘Les 13 faces du Valais,’ and its major theme is the world’s most precious natural element: water. Water in all its variations, liquid in the lake, frozen into ice and snow, and a source of hydroelectric energy, becomes the common denominator of the film that develops through the four seasons. The 13 districts are brought together in 13 stories featuring water in its different expressions, and how it interacts with the lives of 13 exceptional individuals.
‘Les 13 faces du Valais’ is a film that lasts one hour and twenty-six minutes. It features people who are in love with the canton and its nature. Some of them are world champions in their chosen fields, but they all share the same passion for reaching and surpassing their own limits, and for sharing their enthusiasm with the general public.
Paragliding, photo by David Carlier
Related: Hot air ballooning in Switzerland
Valais provides a spectacular stage for this sort of performance. It has 50 mountains exceeding 4,000 metres, including the world famous Matterhorn and numerous glaciers including some of the largest in the Alps. It is not surprising that the canton has always been one of the most popular areas for tourists visiting Switzerland.
The film begins with Remy Boser, who is the best highliner in Switzerland. Watching him walking from one side of a gorge to the other on a rope suspended high above the valley floor is not only fascinating, but also gives you a sensation of freedom. It’s amazing that something extraordinary can be achieved simply by putting a rope between two cliffs... as long as there is someone prepared to set out on that perilous journey!
Mountain biking, photo by David Carlier
Ben Walker grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where BMX was a very popular sport. He progressed to mountain bikes and became one of the best MTB riders in the world. He now lives high above Champéry, the location famous for hosting the steepest and toughest mountain biking course in the world. He has helped the region develop the most demanding MTB trails in the world, bringing it world fame.
July May works as a helicopter pilot, dropping people in remote areas for heliskiing excursions. Flying gives her a feeling of total independence and the images are just breath-taking, providing a sensation of miraculous suspension that is reserved for the birds and those few people who, in one way or another, inhabit the aerial dimension. Frédéric Roux is one of the top Himalayan climbers in the world. In the film, he climbs on Mont Dolent, 3,820 metres, with his friend Mike Horn. All the people appearing in the film have the same deep respect for their environment, with the mountains and water that are essential for their chosen professions. As Mike Horn says, they don’t consider their sports as extreme: it’s just normality for them.
Photo from the film Les 13 faces du Valais by David Carlier
Of course David Carlier played a fundamental role. Twenty-five years ago, when he was working as a trader in Geneva, no one could have predicted that he would have made one of the most technically demanding films ever, with up to 30 people working in difficult environmental conditions to capture the perfect angle using the RED Dragon 6K cineflex camera often used for Hollywood productions. His screenplay for the project immediately convinced the committee for the 200th Valais anniversary celebrations. That initial success was followed by huge amounts of work fuelled by David’s obsession for image quality and perfect sound. Hundreds of hours of film material had to be distilled down to one and a half hours of pure emotion.