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The film follows rock climber Alex Honnold, who became the first person to ever scale Yosemite’s 3,000-foot-high El Capitan wall without ropes or safety gear. On the way to the Oscars, the film also won the best documentary honor at the BAFTA Awards.
“Oh shit,” co-director Jimmy Chin said upon accepting the award, providing the night’s first curse word. “Thank you, National Geographic, for hiring women and people of color; it only makes the film better,” Chin’s wife and co-director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi added.
The couple thanked their team, saying, “It was a work of an army, and we appreciate you in every way. Thank you, Alex Honnold, for giving us courage, teaching us to believe in the impossible, and inspiring us.”
Backstage the helmers talked about the scariest high-wire moments filming the doc. “Hanging off the wall, I couldn’t see Alex Honnold below, and I just had to trust that he was just being perfect. We also had to carry the weight of the entire production being perfect, because if we made any mistakes, it could have been catastrophic,” Chin said.
He added that being at the Oscars is “surreal” for the duo. “To be embraced in this community, we feel like interlopers, but it’s been amazing. We threw our hearts into making this film. We’re passionate about the wild places we go, and I think that’s reflected in this film — and we think that’s why it’s been embraced.”
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Cannes Film Festival