Last week, I met a man in the Puerto Rican jungle who’d been living without Internet or television for years, and who spoke almost no English. Still, when I told him I was a climber, the first thing he said was, “Have you heard of Alex Honnold?”
As exciting as it is for climbers everywhere, it’s not surprising that Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s biopic of Honnold’s free solo attempt on El Cap has nabbed a nomination for the 91st Academy Awards. With $14.7 million in box office sales to date, despite a limited theatrical run, as well as 44 nominations and 14 awards internationally, the film and its subject have redefined what’s possible for the sport of climbing and mainstream recognition.
Already famous for co-directing 2015’s Meru—which follows his own, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk’s assault on the peak’s “Shark’s Fin” feature—Chin and Vasarhelyi reached a far larger audience with Free Solo. The film and Honnold have successfully captivated minds across the country and the world. This is only the second time a climbing film has been nominated for an Oscar, after Mike Hoover’s short documentary “Solo” (1973), and the first time a feature-length documentary has been nominated.
Nominated for Best Feature Documentary, Free Solo is up against four other films at the Oscars come February:
Minding the Gap is a coming-of-age story shot over twelve years, following the director and his friends as they grow up in Rockford, Illinois, the heart of America’s Rust Belt.
Of Fathers and Sons documents radical Islamism through the lens of family, focusing on the upbringing of two sons under the care of a radicalized father who desires to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening portrays the lives of two African-American men in Alabama over the span of five years.
RBG follows the life, trials and triumphs of iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice in history.
The winner will be announced at the Academy Awards on February 24th.
There’s stiff competition, but as a climber I’d like to think it pales in the face of 3,000 feet of vert sans rope.
Godspeed, Free Solo.