Diving Into The Unknown Written and Directed by Juan Reina
Cast: Patrik Gronqvist, Vesa Rantanen, Kai Kankanen, Sami Paakkarinen
Distributor: B-Plan Distribution
Run Time: 83 Minutes
Release Date: February 16th, 2016 (Finland), November 17th, 2016 (U.S.)
“We just wanted to bring our friends home.”
Diving into the Unknown had its U.S. premiere at the DOC NYC festival last month, and is a captivating and remarkable tale of friendship, commitment, and coping with loss. The documentary tracks and details a tragedy and the perseverance of the survivors. Back in February, 2014, a pack of Finnish cave divers joined up in Plurdalen, Norway for yet another death defying adventure. Their goal was to enter the icy waters, swim over 100 meters down, and arrive in a deep cavern called the Steinugleflaget, which was their way out. This sounds like total madness to most people. Why put yourself in potentially life-threatening situations traversing icy depths? The thrills, the camaraderie? As someone who has skydived and taken part in 10+ mile obstacle course races, I can understand the fun and desire to participate in these types of activities.
Unfortunately for these friends, tragedy struck deep in depths of this Norwegian cave system. Two of the divers, Jari Huotarinen and Jari Uusimaki lost their lives from complications during the dive; both struggling and eventually dying in front of their friends. The other divers, Patrik Gronqvist, Vesa Rantanen, and Kai Kankanen were also injured in the accident, suffering decompression sickness, some spending as many as 11 hours underwater. Norwegian and British authorities tried to reclaim the bodies of the fallen divers, but conditions were borderline unbearable and soon the rescue mission was aborted. And that’s when the real mission begins.
They call their friend and fellow diver Sami Paakkarinen, who was working in Mexico at the time. “When you look at your phone and you have 10 missed calls and 10 text messages, you know something bad has happened,” Paakkarinen says. Together, he, the three other divers, and a group of over 20 Norwegian and Finnish crew members put together a dangerous and illegal mission to find the bodies of their compatriots, deep in the depths of the Plurdalen caves. What follows is nearly 40 minutes of pulse pounding footage filmed from the head-cams of the divers as they peril the icy waters inside the caves.
This is a documentary that could easily lend itself to the horror genre. I was reminded of scary films like The Descent, and had to keep telling myself that this is a true story and monsters aren’t going to jump out in the darkness. You feel for these guys, some… like Kai Kankanen, are visibly suffering and by the end, Kai can’t even get in the water. He is clearly marked by PTSD. Gronqvist pushes himself to his limits, and Paakkarinen holds everyone together when they’re at their most dangerous. In the end, the documentary is an absolutely fascinating look at how far people will go to right wrongs and maintain bonds of friendship. There are great candid moments at the farmhouse they’re staying in, where the group discusses the families of the lost divers and make sure they get proper burials.
Diving Into the Unknown is a true testament to the human spirit and a must see piece of filmmaking. The film was an entrant in this year’s DOC NYC festival and is circulating festivals and theaters now. Check out more at Diving Into the Unknown and follow the film on Facebook.
Diving into the Unknown is a film about a group of Finnish divers who set out on a secret mission to bring the bodies of their friends home after a deadly accident in a deep underwater cave. Four Finnish cave divers face their worst nightmare when two of their friends drown deep inside an underwater cave in Norway. When the official recovery operation is called off by the Norwegian and British authorities after being deemed too risky, the friends set out on a secret mission to retrieve the bodies themselves. While all of the divers are have years of experience in deep-sea diving, this dive will be different. This time they’ll not only have to face the bodies of their friends, they’ll also have to return to a place where they themselves almost died just a few weeks earlier.
With footage from the actual accident (shot before production began) and multiple cameras both above water and deep below the surface, this film follows the breathtaking recovery mission from beginning to end. Diving into the Unknown is the story of a dangerous mission and the depths this group of friends is willing to go for each other – even if it means risking their own lives.
DIVING INTO THE UNKNOWN – official trailer
In this feature length documentary the viewers are taken into a secret operation where a group of Finnish cave divers try to retrieve the bodies of their friends from deep inside underwater cave in Norway. Now they have to face the burden of their own fears during this life-threatening mission.