Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin won Best Documentary Feature for “Free Solo” at the 91st Academy Awards last night.
The husband-and-wife team directed and co-produced the National Geographic documentary, besting “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” (RaMell Ross), “Minding the Gap” (Bing Liu), “Of Fathers and Sons” (Talal Derki) and “RBG” (Betsy West and Julie Cohen).
Running 100 minutes, “Free Solo” follows rock climber, Alex Honnold in his bold attempt to conquer the 3,200-feet El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope.
While receiving the award, Chai Vasarhelyi thanked National Geographic “for believing in us and for hiring women and people of color because we only help make the films better.”
“This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible,” Chai Vasarhelyi said. “It was the work of an army.”
El Capitan, a towering monolith of sheer granite, is located on the north side of Yosemite Valley. Like most rock formations in the area, it was carved by glacial action some 1.3 million years ago.
Backstage, Chin recalled some challenges of filming Honnold’s ascent at the so-called, “center of the rock-climbing universe.”
“Hanging off the wall I couldn’t see Alex alone. I just had to trust that he was being perfect,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We also had to carry the weight of the entire production of being perfect. If we had made any mistakes it could have been catastrophic.”
“Free Solo,” which grossed $19 million worldwide, received multiple accolades ahead of its Oscar win.
The film won People’s Choice Documentary at the Toronto International Film Festival, Best Documentary at the British Academy Film Awards and Most Innovative Documentary at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, to name a few.
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