A film by Phil Kibbe
2019, 81 minutes
No. 240


2021 Notable Video | American Library Association

Float follows the tumultuous journey of Brett Sanborn and Yuan Kang Lee, two American competitors as they prepare for and compete in the most elite model airplane contest in the world, located 400 feet underground in the cathedral-like salt mines of Romania. Officially known as the “F1D World Championships,” pilots representing over 12 countries attempt to keep their plane flying as long as possible. 

At 30 years old, Brett Sanborn stands out as the young gun of a sport in which most of the competitors are over 60. Full of ambition, Brett has found in the competition an outlet for his former anger and short temper. Yuan Kang Lee, on the other hand, is the newcomer to the group, distinguished by his zen-like demeanor and philosophical approach to competition. 

After devoting years of time into construction and practice for no material reward, glory becomes their primary incentive. Float brilliantly details the precise process and science by which these complicated machines—at once elegant and fragile—are constructed and flown. Like any competition, cheating and controversy are inescapable. With an emphasis on striking cinematography, the film unfolds with the same graceful pace as the flight of one of the planes itself.

Official Selection, Cleveland International Film Festival
Official Selection, Riverrun International Film Festival
Official Selection, Montclair Film Festival

“The goal isn’t to fly, but to float: to prolong the wonder, essentially, of flying. The planes, which weigh less than a gram and are powered by a single rubber band, can drift on air currents for up to 30 minutes in big, enclosed spaces like stadiums and concert halls. I suspect they’re the kind of planes Alexander Calder would have made, if he’d been into making airplanes.” — The Boston Globe

“Perfectly perfect to look at. What’s more fascinating than the ultralight free fliers in Float? The people who dedicate their lives to making them.” — Gizmodo

“Every now and then something comes along that really piques my curiosity and I don’t even realize how big I’m smiling until my face starts to hurt a little. Rubber-powered flight is now among them.” — NYC Aviation