When Aquaman himself opened the envelope for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars last night, he looked down at the winner, gave his co-presenter, Dame Helen Mirren, a cheeky little sideways glance, and announced simply, “Free Solo.”
They did it! Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi’s coup, winning filmmaking’s highest documentary honor, was validation on the highest order, a recognition that Free Solo—and Honnold’s journey to climb El Cap ropeless—wowed audiences in a way that went beyond climbing.
“Oh shit,” Chin said as he got to the microphone, visibly dumbstruck throughout pretty much the whole rest of his and Vasarhelyi’s acceptance speech.
Vasarhelyi was able to keep it together, and spoke for everyone involved in the film. She thanked National Geographic for “hiring women and people of color, because we only help make the films better.”
The co-directors went on to thank their children, the “high-angle team” that helped capture Honnold’s incredible feat on film, Sanni McCandless, and—as the music started, letting them know their time was up—No Big Deal himself.
“Thank you Alex Honnold for giving us courage and teaching us how to believe in the impossible and inspiring us,” Vasarhelyi said. “This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible.”
With that, the Free Solo roller-coaster—from the niche climbing film that could, to a Bafta win, to this—seems to be more-or-less at an end. And what a ride it was!
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