BFI Southbank marks the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest with a season dedicated to the daring of mountaineering, while the Kendal Mountain Festival comes to the Southbank.
BFI Southbank will mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest with Extreme Summits, a season dedicated to the lure of the mountains and the heroic endeavours of those that scale their highest peaks. This season will span mountaineering exploits from the burgeoning European sport of Alpinism in the Victorian/Edwardian era through to modern day mountain top heroics, which not only push climbers to their limits, but also push the boundaries of what is possible with a camera in extreme environments. The centrepiece of the season will be Captain John Noel’s film record, The Epic of Everest (1924) which has been restored by the BFI National Archive. The new restoration will also be released in cinemas nationwide on 18 October to coincide with its world premiere Archive Gala screening at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.
The season will draw on further material from the BFI National Archive, including the first film ever taken in Tibet, the first ever recorded flight over Everest (Wings Over Everest, 1934) and footage from Claude Friese-Greene’s 1925 film The Open Road. The season will feature footage of some of the most important British climbers from the second half of the 20th century, including Sir Chris Bonington, Joe Brown, Doug Scott, and Joe Tasker. Films documenting both successful and unsuccessful climbs including Kangchenjunga (1955), Everest Unmasked (1978) and The Summit (2012) will provide a look at how mountain film has developed over the years. Complementing the season BFI Southbank will also host a weekend of events from one of the world’s largest mountain festivals, with the Kendal Mountain Festival Weekend (Friday 22 Nov – Sunday 24 Nov); the festival will bring the best of adventure, discovery, environmental, wilderness heritage and culture to BFI Southbank.
The craze for Alpinism in the Victorian and Edwardian eras will be celebrated in Climb Every Mountain, a compilation of early mountaineering films from the BFI National Archive. This will include rare colour footage from Claude Friese-Greene’s The Open Road (1925), which recently became an internet sensation thanks to tweets from the likes of Kevin Spacey and Stephen Fry. The official film record of the third attempt to climb Everest, The Epic of Everest (1924), is one of the most remarkable films in the BFI National Archive. This legendary expedition culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an on-going debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a hand-cranked camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breath-taking beauty and considerable historical significance. Less well known, but extremely significant, is Noel’s first official record of the 1922 expedition to conquer the world’s highest peak Climbing Mount Everest; this was the first film taken in Tibet and recorded fascinating images of the culture and landscapes witnessed by the members of the expedition. Kamet Conquered (1931), filmed by mountaineer and cameraman Frank Smythe, is a straightforward portrait of a climb that achieved what it set out to do, without loss of life – success rather than tragedy. Smythe was disappointed by the reaction, feeling that audiences had a morbid appetite for disaster following the disastrous results of 1924. Everest in the 1930s will document further attempts on Everest throughout the 1930s and includes footage of legendary climbers Eric Shipton, Hugh Ruttledge and Raymond Greene.
In 1953 Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing finally stood on the roof of the world, and Thomas Stobart’s film The Conquest of Everest (1953) shows the determination, heroism and teamwork that made this feat possible. Another first is the screening of Kangchenjunga (1955), a record of the first ascent of the world’s third highest mountain. This footage of their climb has never before been screened publicly. Sir Chris Bonington’s attempts to put a Briton on top of Everest for the first time are documented in This Week: Everest – The Fight for the Face (1972) and Everest the Hard Way (1975). Meanwhile Everest Unmasked (1978) and Everest: The Last Unclimbed Ridge (1983) explore the challenges of ‘Alpine style’ ascents without oxygen. The challenge and costs of climbing on ‘the mountaineer’s mountain’ are explored in K2 – The Elusive Summit (1985) and K2 – Triumph and Tragedy (1999), with the latter exploring the mountaineering history of the world’s second highest mountain. The Wildest Dream (2010) focuses on climbers Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding as they follow in the footsteps of Mallory and Irvine on Everest in a spectacular tribute to the 1924 expedition. Finally, The Summit (2012) shows how new myths and tragedies are created in the world’s highest mountains today.
Complementing the Extreme Summits season will be the Kendal Mountain Festival Weekend (Friday 22 Nov – Sunday 24 Nov). The mountain film is a truly exciting genre, but it’s more than just adrenaline and more than just mountains; one of the world’s leading mountain festivals, Kendal Mountain Festival, will bring the best of adventure, discovery, environmental, wilderness heritage and culture to BFI Southbank. Meet the Mountain Filmmakers will bring together three of today’s most vital practitioners of mountain film: Leo Dickinson, Paul Diffley and Alastair Lee. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a camera in extreme environments, each have produced outstanding adventure documentaries from sensational locations. This event will give audiences the opportunity to see some of their incredible work and then pose their questions afterwards. The rest of the weekend will comprise four exciting and varied films programmes: Mountaineering and Climbing (Sat 23 Nov), Ski, Board and Wild Water (Sat 23 Nov), Bike and Free Flight (Sun 24 Nov) and Environment, Culture and Exploration (Sun 24 Nov). From daring climbs on Himalayan giants and gut-wrenching BASE jumps to extreme ski adventures, these films explore what motivates a person to put his or her life on the line and the emotion generated by facing these truly amazing feats