The 2020 Kendal Film Awards were held on Saturday night, hosted by Kendal Mountain Festival's resident Jury Chairman Keme Nzerem and a panel of judges. This year's festival had a record 400 entries from both professional and amateur filmmakers; a remarkable achievement considering the obstacles that filmmakers had to contend with throughout the year.
A bit surprised The Ghosts Above won Best Mountain Film. It seemed to document how the expedition was set up without the sherpas' understanding that they were looking for Irvine's body, rather than a summit expedition. Then went on to summit but on the descent went off to look for Irvine's body knowing full well that it would piss the sherpas off and that it meant they were at altitude for longer than expected. Not much longer but it just seemed to show massive arrogance on the part of the team and disrespect for the sherpas. Or did I miss something?
That wasn't my impression at all, I thought it was a great film albeit really depressing about the state of climbing Everest. I thought what it showed despite being pretty honest with the sherpas that on Everest you have to either fully buy in to the commercialisation bullshit or go home. I thought it was really sad that the sherpas were so against it as without the summit tick they weren't going to get any work from Chinese teams. Also a lot of respect for Renan for not going to the top.
Thinking about this a bit more - I think what the film did was excellent show how the commercialization of Everest has not only removed the independence, decision making/risk assessment process but actually forced its removal. showing how far accents like these on big peaks have become separated from some of the core values of climbing and mountaineering and that peaks, like Everest, have effectively become lost.
I thought the film did well in openly capturing many grey areas for the issues around Everest. The film-makers approached their expedition as Everest “cynics” and assumed their plan to look for Irvine without summiting would actually please the sherpas. They then learnt and reacted to the deeper complexities that the Sherpas own careers were also tied into summiting. To that extent it shows that any of our aims for the mountains are arbitrary and bound to a range of impacts on others, there’s nothing necessarily better or worse about going to the summit versus hunting for yeti etc. They also pointed out that when we look at queues to the summit in the media we guess these will be filled with bad feelings and resentment (e.g. Snowdon this year), but actually they are partly filled with psyched (if that is possible at 8000 m!) pleasant people with a shared aim trying to live their dreams (and in the end I guess on reflection, why did we expect it not to be like this?). The team get drawn into their summit bid, despite being very knowing about the politics of doing so. They take rests leaning on frozen bodies, again showing that it doesn’t matter how right minded you are, going up there leads to certain behavior: like it or not. Towards the end Renan concedes that the allure of summiting the worlds' highest Peak is significant, and something we likely have to live with rather than subjugate. This all plays out in miniature as the team member decides to go off piste while the Sherpas protest, another example of how our personal goals are blinding, whatever they focus on. Add in powerful images, and for me it was about the best film I’ve seen so far from all the Kendal offerings.
Lock Down Rock Up would’ve made a great episode of 24 hours in A&E.
Clearly he’s a very talented climber so tbh would’ve been nice to have a little more of the escapism (i.e. climbing) side of things.
I mostly agree with you particularly on the depressing commercialisation of climbing Everest - in fact I wasn't going to watch this film as it showed a lot of what we've seen before, and only did so because it was an Award winner, only to be disappointed. In the past there have been expeditions that had different aims than reaching the summit - clean up, looking for Mallory for example. I wonder if these expeditions were open about their aims and therefore acceptable to the sherpas? I don't know the answer to that and maybe never will, but it appears this one had a problem in not making their aim clear from the outset.
I'm also very tired of seeing timelapse or speeded up film of clouds which just turns me off, I think it's become a must have which rarely adds - purely in my view, very subjective of course!
I can’y believe ‘pretty strong’ didn’t win best climbing film. It was fantastic and actually about amazing climbers sending really hard routes + showing the moves and sequences (which seems to be something of a rarity).
Nobody had to go through an emotional journey, nobody had to face their personal demons or any other of these over used tropes -the narrative of each story is really nicely done but it’s all about amazing footage of pro climbers doing what they should be doing - having fun while climbing hard.
Pretty strong was really enjoyable, but it was purely a climbing film. I think the lack of deeper narrative probably makes it a bit boring to people who aren’t climbers so wouldn’t have a chance at best film. That being said, I thought the narrative in The Ghosts Above was utter shite. The only thing enjoyable about the film was the montage of fist bump photos about halfway through. Was 36 mins I’ll never get back.
The Wall of Shadows is much better mountaineering film. Contains some genuinely haunting mountaineering footage, feels like it’s made with a lot of respect for the Sherpa community and the lack of constant narration gives time to think about the subject matter. Very well constructed documentary
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