2020 Kendal Mountain Festival Film Awards

© Kendal Mountain Festival

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.

Jury Chairman Keme Nzerem  © Kendal Mountain Festival
Jury Chairman Keme Nzerem
© Kendal Mountain Festival

Without further ado, the winners of the 2020 Kendal Mountain Festival Film Awards are:

Best Creative: Then Comes The Evening - DIRECTOR: Maja Novaković Serbia

Depicting the lives of two grandmothers living in eastern Bosnia. Nature is the entity that they speak and listen to, and respect.

The film emphasises the power of cultural heritage, through the presentation of chants and rituals for taming adverse weather, hail, and storm. It reflects the simplicity and purity of their way of life, as well as their painstaking work. Everyday life in the countryside shows the caring and intimacy of these grandmothers, both in their mutual relations and in their relationship with nature.

Best Short: Lock Down, Rock Up - DIRECTOR: Nico Hambleton

Jerome Mowat takes us through the challenges he faced as a front-line paramedic during the pandemic, and how he used climbing as an escape.

Jerome Mowat: The star of Lock Down, Rock Up  © Nico Hambleton
Jerome Mowat: The star of Lock Down, Rock Up
© Nico Hambleton

Best Environmental: The Cull - DIRECTOR: Ted Simpson

There are estimated to be over 350,000 red deer in Scotland, which has a massive impact on the landscape and ecosystem of the Highlands. 'The Cull' explores the different approaches to deer management taken by landowners and managers, and the reasons behind those differing approaches. Talking to people from all over Scotland and on all sides of the debate, the film presents the issues as seen by real people on the ground.

Best Adventure and Exploration: Piano to Zanskar - DIRECTOR: Michal Sulima

Aided by a team of local Sherpas, as well as yaks and ponies, Desmond and his assistants are tested to the limit, physically and psychologically, as they cross sheer mountain passes of breathtaking beauty. If successful, the expedition will be the highest piano delivery in the world. More importantly, it will be the ultimate gesture of music's universal power to inspire strength and bring joy.

Best Mountain Film: The Ghosts Above - DIRECTORS: Taylor Rees and Renan Ozturk

A team wants to solve the mystery of who climber Everest first, but finds so much more; a brutal reality.

Everest is the eternal subject of mountain films. Who achieved the first summit? Was it really George Mallory? On this quest, there are reflections on the history of Everest expeditions, the fraught relationship between indigenous guides and expeditioners, the rigours of high-alpine mountaineering, and the commercialisation of sacred Everest. A brutally honest look at the current state of affairs.

Best Sport: Runner - DIRECTOR: Bill Gallagher

When he was eight, Guor Mading Maker (known as Guor Marial) ran from capture in war-torn Sudan to eventually seek safety in the US. In his new life, Marial began running and qualified for the 2012 Olympics. He had to fight to compete independently, refusing to run for Sudan and taking a stand against its oppression. 'Runner' depicts Marial's difficult and triumphant journey from refugee to world-renowned athlete.

Best Climbing Film: Loic and the Flolopapys - DIRECTOR: Dominique Snyers

Twenty-two year old Loic became a passionate climber after having received his first pair of climbing shoes at age six. Along with Florian, Pablo and Pierre, they are the inseparable 'Flolopapys', bringing their energy and good vibes to the farthest reaches of the climbing world.

Although each is unique, they complement and support each other like a band of brothers. You'll fall under the spell of their humour, friendship and fragility. But can Loic use the Flolopapys energy to overcome his haunting fear of heights as he confronts some of the toughest climbs on the planet?

Loic and the Flolopapys  © Dominique Snyers
Loic and the Flolopapys
© Dominique Snyers

Best Community and Culture Award: Africa Riding - DIRECTOR: Aurélien Biette and Liz Gomis

Africa Riding is a documentary series that presents a community of riders that try to create a new social and cultural order in Africa. Karim, an amazing Rwandan roller skater, performs incredible stunts and tricks. Thanks to his talent, he has been hired to give roller skating lessons to children. In his lessons, he mixes children from all backgrounds and from his own Gakinjiro neighborhood in Kigali.

Changemaker Award: Venture Out - DIRECTORS: Palmer Morse, Jamie DiNicola and Matt Mikkelsen

Venture Out is a story of overcoming odds, the power of resilience, and the ever-lasting effects of LGBTQ community building. The Venture Out Project, founded by Perry Cohen, is a non-profit organisation that brings LGBTQ folks together outdoors on wilderness trips. In sharing his story, we get a glimpse into the healing qualities of nature and life-saving community bonds that are being forged.

Judges Special Prize: Chasing Ghosts - DIRECTOR: Eric Bendick

In their quest to identify the pollinator of the ghost orchid, a team spent three summers standing waist-deep in alligator- and snake-laden water, swatting air blackened by mosquitoes, and climbing to nausea-inducing heights. They came away with an even deeper love for Florida's wildest wetlands - and with surprising revelations that may help to conserve the endangered orchid and it's shrinking home.

Judges Special Prize: Do Better Together - DIRECTOR: Shelma Jun

Ayesha McGowan is training to become the first African American female professional road cyclist, but it's not just about her breaking through. Rather, Ayesha is a voice for how important representation matters to make this sport accessible for others. She works tirelessly to empower people of colour to try new things and has created an online platform to tell their stories.

Grand Prize: Into the Storm [En la Tomenta] - DIRECTOR: Adam Brown

Filmed over 5 years, Into the Storm [En La Tormenta] follows the unlikely dream of a young indigenous surfer from one of the toughest barrios in Latin America as he struggles to escape the deprivations of his background and become a professional athlete. It's a story of hope and huge personal struggle against seemingly impossible odds – including being shot. It's a testament to the transformative difference made by the love of a parent; and ultimately it's the emotional and uplifting triumph of young man who refuses to be defined by the circumstances of his birth.

All the award-winning films are in a special film collection that can be watched here.

On-demand until 31st December, Kendal Mountain Festival will provide unlimited access to curated films, live sessions, literature and inspiring speakers, online for everyone, everywhere via the Festival's website. For access to over 200 films, 20+ inspirational speakers, 15 specialist sessions and 30 literature talks, visit

KMF has very kindly offered all UKC/UKH readers a unique discount for festival events.

Enter the code UKCLIMBING10 when purchasing tickets at

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1 Dec, 2020

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?

1 Dec, 2020

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.

1 Dec, 2020

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.

1 Dec, 2020

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.

1 Dec, 2020

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.

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