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Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

Film festival features Finnish rugby, German river surfing

Thank you to my editors and my family for indulging my annual visit to the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

This year I went 7-for-7, perhaps not as impressive a feat as the time I was 12-for-13, but the best I could do with a smaller field.

All seven movies will be available for public screenings Saturday at Tribeca Cinemas.

The good news this year is three were part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series, meaning I can write about them without having to worry about when and where readers can actually see them.

But let's start with three quirky documentaries that are not part of "30 for 30."

"Freetime Machos," by the Finnish filmmaker Mika Ronkainen, follows a club rugby team from the northern city of Oulu through a season of on-field misadventures and off-field male bonding.

The more-complex-than-we'd-like-women-to-believe nature of the latter at times might be uncomfortable to watch for middle-aged men who still like to get together with buddies on the playing field, but there it is.

"Keep Surfing," by Bjorn Richie Lob, which mostly is in German with some English, focuses on the world of river surfing and its mecca, Munich, Germany.

For those of us who never had heard of river surfing, the film is an education in a sport in which participants surf against the current rather than with it, as in ocean surfing.

Some of the footage - shot over the course of 10 years - is eye-popping, but for many observers (or at least this one) the feature length of the film is overkill.

This would have made for a fascinating 15-minute segment on "E:60."

In "Into the Cold," adventurer, photographer and environmental activist Sebastian Copeland and his partner, Keith Heger, spend 35 days walking the final 300 miles and 5 degrees of latitude to the North Pole.

The idea is both to celebrate the centennial of Robert Peary's trip and to highlight the effects of global warming on polar ice.

Copeland overwrites at times as he narrates the expedition, but you have to admire the effort (and the recordinng of it) in temperatures that approach minus-50 degrees.

One element I couldn't help wondering about but that the filmmaker never addresses: How does one, um, handle bathroom necessities when spending a month in those conditions?

Tags: ESPN

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