Dominique Snyers: “Loic and the Flolopapys” – The Real Story

#interview #rockclimbing #film

This weekend we are eager to see again,  on a giant screen this time (!) at Iulius Park, “Loic and the Flolopapys”, a documentary film on rock climbing and a group of young friends, directed by Dominique Snyers. Nominated in the semifinals for the Transylvania Mountain Festival 2020 Trophy, we enjoyed the story presented by Dominique and we also have discovered his immense passion for mountaineering and knowledge sharing. In this special interview, we will unveil the real story behind the “Loic and the Flolopapys“(2019) film.

The key image of the Loic and the Flolopapys documentary film.

About Dominique Snyers

Dominique Snyers, called by his friends Dom, studied engineering in Belgium and at the Stanford University in California. He holds a phD in Computer Science from the Caen University in France.

Besides his work as a University teacher, entrepreneur and creator of IT start-ups, Dom has been accompanying numerous adventurers, often younger than him, into the wilderness, on both horizontal as well as vertical environment.

He set up the association capexpe.org, a community of adventurers in order to encourage the dream of adventure and its autonomous realization in the cheapest way as possible thanks to the community.

His main motivation has always been teaching and knowledge transfer. That is also why he is now fully diving into film realization to try finding answers to the following question: « Why in our modern society that is everyday becoming more and more virtual and is openly rejecting any notion of risks, do we see more and more young people engaging themselves into risky adventures to reconnect with the wilderness? »

In his first film “The Nahanni whisperer” (see nahanniwhisperer.com), he led four young climbers over the 650 km of rapids of the Nahanni River to climb the magnificent face of the Lotus Flower, deep in northern Canada.

In his second film Altaitude (altaitude.com), he spent three weeks in a remote Mongolian yurt with 19-year-old Damien to explore the snow couloirs of some of the highest peaks of Mongolia, on the border with Russia and China.

Dominique Snyers – climbing in Utah

The Trigger Of Making Loic And The Flolopapys

Dominique Snyers: At the time, I was working on another project on the why and how of risk taking by climbers. In the context of this project, I interviewed Loic Debry (the main character of Loic and the Flolopapys) who was renting a student room at the headquarters of our wilderness adventurers association (capexpe.org). I’ve known Loic since childhood, I climbed with him as a teenager and watched with wonder his personal evolution as a climber but also as a source of inspiration for many other very interesting characters around him. During this interview, I realized that there was something universal about his story and that this positive energy deserved the effort to make a film about it. I decided to invest 6 months of my life in this project.

Image during the shooting of Loic and The Flolopapys

The Main Challenges Of The Documentary

Dominique Snyers:  Loic with another friend was a member of our association and despite their young age, they started to imitate other members of our association by filming their own experiences in nature. They quickly became quite good at this and that’s why, when he came out of the climbing gym to start exploring trad climbing on increasingly wild cliffs, Loic naturally brought a camera with him. This camera even became part of their team and the way they behaved with each other. They were constantly playing with it with no other purpose than to film the pleasure and intensity of what they were experiencing collectively.

They had gigabytes of video material sleeping on a hard disk and I had to spend weeks going through it to find the jewels hidden in all those shaking shots with shitty sounds. That’s how I began to get into the intimacy of their little climbing circle.  As I said, I knew Loic very well, but I got to know the other Flolopapys through their video footage. The difficulty was to meet them in real life and enter with my camera into their very tight climbing group. I started visiting them on several of their climbing expeditions. They immediately accepted me and we even became friends. Their energy really sucked me in.

But my biggest challenge was when I started editing the film. I wanted a film with no external voice-over. I just wanted the story to be told through their voices. Telling a complete story that keeps the audience’s attention throughout the film without voice-overs was for me the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in making a film.

The Key Cast

Dominique Snyers: Luckily, the main characters were already there! Therefore, I did not have to select any cast since Florian, Loic, Pablo and Pierre formed such a tight band of climbing brothers!

Florian, Loic, Pablo and Pierre – The Flolopapys.

The Passion For Mountains And Mountain Sports

Dominique Snyers: I started skiing in the Belgian Ardennes when I was a child and loved it right away. I discovered downhill skiing in the Alps at the age of twelve and it changed my life and who I became. Climbing came much later.

I started climbing at the age of 25, but I have never stopped since. I have climbed so many places in the world that I have developed a very biased view of world geography. But mostly through climbing, I have met so many interesting climbing partners with whom I have learned so much.  In particular, I was lucky enough to be able to share on many occasions the rope and friendship of Patrick Berhault, the famous and very inspiring French climber. He introduced me to more technical climbing and mountaineering in the Alps, such as the north face of the Matterhorn for example. His aesthetic and very efficient way of setting foot on the rock really fascinated me. The first time I climbed with Loic, he was 15 years old. I immediately saw that he had the same way of dancing on the rocks. I’m obviously biased, but I’ve never seen this in any other climber other than these two. It is probably also one of the reasons that pushed me to make this film about Loïc and his friends.

I am also very addicted to the Arctic region and winter camping. For the past 30 years, I have been spending at least two weeks a year in Lapland to explore its white and frozen valleys on skis. More recently I have also been skiing in the Mongolian steppes and mountains.

Dominique Snyers – in Iceland.

How Is Mountain Culture Seen And Promoted In Belgium?

Dominique Snyers: We have a long tradition of exploration and mountaineering in Belgium. Boy and girl scouting is definitively part of our culture. We like to camp in nature for long periods of time in complete autonomy.

Belgium is a densely populated country, without mountains and with very few wild places, but we have become the kings to invent the most diverse wilderness expeditions. We have a culture of inventing summits and  goals in a very creative way,  always with a zest of that self-mockery that characterizes us.

With our association of wilderness enthusiasts, we try to help those who have a dream to put it to music by sharing material and advice.

Just as in chemistry, your association works as a catalyst by lowering the potential barrier to be overcome to trigger the reaction.

Dominique Snyers –  filming in Mongolia.

2020 IN A FEW WORDS

Dominique Snyers:  Mountaineering has always been a place where we can learn to play with the constraints. This 2020 years forced us to be even more creative than usual for the better.

Impressions about Transylvania Mountain from the distance?

Dominique Snyers:  I whish I could visit you and meet your community that sound very enthusiastic and eager to share their passion for the mountain

Dominique Snyers –  in Nahanni.

Future Projects

Dominique Snyers:  I am working on three projects at the moment: a documentary on the last reindeer herder of Mongolia with whom I spent several weeks last Winter, a film on a winter north-south traverse of Iceland on skis and writing a book which is really pushing me out of my comfort zone.

With so many interesting projects, we are eager to see Dominique’s upcoming films and book! Hopefully we will have him around climbing mountain in Romania and at our festival in autumn.

For those interested in his work you are welcome to follow his official pages here:

Dominique Snyers: “Loic and The Flolopapys” – The Real Story – an interview prepared by Diana Ciorba

published: 25.08.2021 / Cluj-Napoca, Romania