A curated view of the peaks of cinema. The summits scaled, the heights perused, the adventures undertaken. All from in the realm of the gods.
From up on high we can see the crest of a mountain range slicing through the horizon. We can see clouds capping far-off mountains. Blue skies. Up here, we encounter a breed of documentary that is rugged and unshakable. Filmmakers who are fearless in their pursuit of Olympian images. Others who are contemplative in an awareness of the serenity and majesty of an isolated mountain retreat. The world is different up here. The air is pure and the natural silence deafening. Sometimes things seem more abstract, other times all too real.
The films in this curated focus on the mountains of documentary filmmaking take us to places unlike any other, glimpsing peaks and troughs of impossible size and scale and being an audience to tales of courage, endurance, and survival. In 4 Years in 10 Minutes, we see footage shot by the first Serbian man to climb Mount Everest, skilfully interwoven with puzzling excerpts from his diary. Meanwhile Michael Pilz's truly epic, two-part Heaven and Earth is a more concentrated portrait of a mountain village in Austria whose inhabitants fight to survive against the powers of nature as well as against economic pressures from outside. Both films are truly experimental visions, taking these settings and images only as the starting point for a more abstract exploration of the textures of mountain life.
Two films about glaciers, Samuel in the Clouds and Audrius Stonys' Woman and the Glacier show another side of this world, with isolated protagonists perched on the edge of existence, watching the ice slowly melt as the planet changes. None of which is to overlook the act of sheer survival that mountaineering often requires. You can find this in all these films, but perhaps nowhere better than in Climbing Higher, the story of the Czech who completed the Crown of the Himalayas, the world’s 14 tallest peaks, one of only a dozen people to do so.
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