Last week, a remembrance of Evan Tanner was published here at Caged Insider, along with news of a new film to be made about the late former UFC Welterweight Champion.
The new film, entitled “1,” is to be directed by filmmaker Bobby Razak, who is mostly known for his seminal MMA documentary Rites of Passage, and his various film projects with TapouT.
In that article, I expressed my own mixed feelings about supporting the new film, which is said to focus on a recreation of Tanner’s last days as he went on a solo hike through the California desert, where he died of heat exhaustion around Clapp Spring in Imperial County.
Mr. Razak, a native of Tottenham, England, spoke to Caged Insider this week to offer some detail, and clarify his intentions with the film.
As it turns out, Razak describes himself a “big fan” of the previous feature about Tanner, Once I Was Champion. But he felt the findings which were released regarding the cause of Tanner’s death to be inconclusive, and that spurred him to begin his research.
“I wanted to know more about how he died,” he explained. “I felt like the film didn’t answer anything about that. There were so many, various reports on the internet. For the longest, I just thought he drove his motorcycle in the desert one way, and completely run out of gas and died there. There were so many conflicting stories, and no one seemed to know how he really died. I said, you know what? I want to go down to Clapp Spring and investigate. Believe it or not, I was the only guy from the media who went to Clapp Spring. No other media went down there. To me that was quite astounding.”
That research resulted in a short film now housed on Razak’s Indie Go Go page. The film ends sadly, with Jeff Green, one of the members of the area’s rescue unit, describing how Tanner’s belief in The Power of One, his not relying on anyone else, ultimately ended in his fall. Asked if this was a goal of the film to express that everyone needs help, Razak has mixed feelings of his own.
“I wanted it just about the facts,” he answers. “But it kind of ended up both ways. He didn’t want the help. He refused to get the help. But it’s kind of a double-edged sword: there’s the facts, and there’s the message too. In life, we all need help. That was part of the philosophy with the Charles “Mask” Lewis, when we were branding TapouT. You need help, you need to make connections. Life is about building relationships. I guess it kind of worked here as well.”
“I understand the Power of One concept. I believe my career is the result of my determination to become successful. But along the way there’s people that helped me. That’s the bottom line. You need help. If you don’t have relationships, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. You’ll never f—ing make it.”
The film shows how Tanner appeared to be fighting to survive to the very end. It also describes how Tanner died without evidence of alcohol in his system, or, startlingly, any physical effects of a history of alcoholism. But, many ask, why do an entire feature focusing on that last journey? Why use actors and effects to attempt to re-create the hallucinations and struggles of the dying man, as Razak plans?
To Razak, who describes fasting to prepare to work on the film, it’s the story that needs to be told.
“I believe his final journey represented a fight,” he explains. “It was an incredible spiritual journey. I also don’t believe death is always a bad thing.”
“My dad actually passed away in my arms seven years ago,” he says. “People always tell me, that must be brutal. But it wasn’t. It was one of the most beautiful things. Some of things he was telling me as he passed away was quite profound and quite spiritual. It really affected me in a positive way. Probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen, my dad going to the next level.”
“People have a negative connotation with death but I don’t think death is always a negative,” Razak continues. “I believe he (Tanner) went through an immense spiritual growth. He probably learned more about himself than in any other part of his life. Whatever he learned in those four days dying in the desert was his 40 days in the desert of (the life of) Jesus Christ. I’m thinking about Muhammad, Abraham, Moses… it was a great spiritual journey, spiritual growth we can learn from in life. This is what I want to share.”
“In 20/20 hindsight, I don’t view this film as just a guy going to a desert and dying, as this great sad thing,” he says. “I want people to focus on the tragedy but on the beauty of it as well. He had a glorious death. He learned so much about life, even more in spirit. The experience must have been very profound, and it will serve him well in the afterlife, wherever he may be.”