This week, Anthill Films released its feature-length look at the life of Steve Smith, Long Live Chainsaw. For many fans of Canadian downhill, and mountain biking in general, this film isn’t a hard sell. Most probably have their tickets in hand already. But for anyone wondering what a documentary could add to Smith’s legacy, or less familiar with his story and legacy, read on, then go see it. This is an absolute must-watch film, whether or not you are a fan of World Cup downhill racing.
Long Live Chainsaw is billed as the “untold story” of Stevie Smith and it does deliver more than an F1: Drive to Survive style race documentary. While Anthill do get into Smith’s racing career, and do a fantastic job of recreating the excitement of his rise to the top of World Cup racing, this film is as much about Smith as a person as it is a racer. Those two obviously intertwine significantly, but Long Live Chainsaw starts well before that famous Seasons segment and even before Smith first rode a mountain bike. Through a series of interviews, with Smith’s mother, Tiana, and people close to the family, the directors bring viewers in on what made Smith such an enduring personality.
In the year’s since his untimely death in 2016 Smith’s legend has only grown. This is especially true here at home in Canada, where the film’s name Long Live Chainsaw is still found on the bikes, helmets and jerseys of Canadian riders and racers, from locals to World Cup pros.
When a film’s goal is to open a window into a public figures here-to private life, there’s always a danger that what is revealed will rub off some of the polish, or somehow dim the image. This is especially true of someone that many of us, really, didn’t know that much about outside of the races and the glimpses at finish lines and in short film segments. After all, even the best, and fastest among us is still human and still makes mistakes.
Long Live Chainsaw has the opposite effect. It invites more people in to his story. Anthill does smooth out some of the rougher edges, but still give a clear window into what made the Canadian Chainsaw Massacre such a popular figure, here in Canada and around the world. Through interviews with friends, family, teammates and competitors, Anthill reveals the details and backstory of moments, like the 2013 World Cup season, recreating the drama that many Canadians remember.
Anthill’s success in reconnecting viewers with the emotional highs of Smith’s career continue when the film turns, inevitably, to the darker parts, too. Long Live Chainsaw does get heavy, showing why, and how much, his loss impacted the cycling community here in Canada and around the world. It’s heavy, but worth the journey. Not many sports movies transcend the the limits of a race course. Long Live Chainsaw does, to great emotional effect. That is a testament to the strength of connections Smith formed so easily while alive as it is to Anthill’s excellent direction.
Anyone can look back at Smith’s results and trace some of their effect into the present. But Long Live Chainsaw reveals more about why his success has had such a strong, and enduring impact on the Canadian mountain bike community. This lasting impact includes his namesake bike part in Nanaimo as well as the Steve Smith Legacy Foundation, which all proceeds from Anthill’s film will go towards.
For new mountain bike fans and die-hard racers alike, Anthill’s film is a must-watch. It does more than call back to a thrilling era for Canadian downhill. It carries that moment forward into the present.
Long Live Chainsaw!