If You Go
What: Adventure Film Festival
When: Oct. 3-5
Where: Boulder Theater and other locations
In late April, a fight broke out on Mount Everest between Sherpas, or Nepalese mountain guides, and three climbers.
Mountaineers Ueli Steck and Simone Moro, accompanied by photographer Jon Griffith, were acclimatizing before a trip up a new route on Everest without the aid of supplemental oxygen.
While accounts of the conflict vary, the three mountaineers say a group of about 100 Sherpas confronted them, throwing rocks and kicking and punching the men. The scuffle occurred after Moro, Steck and Griffith stepped over some ropes the Sherpas were fixing between Camps II and III.
Boulder-based Sender Films, which was in the process of making a film about Steck and the new route when the incident occurred, premiered "High Tension: Ueli Steck and the Clash on Everest" in September at Boulder's REEL Rock film festival.
The film is also part of this weekend's Adventure Film Festival line-up in Boulder. We asked Sender Films' Nick Rosen about how the film came together, and how it's being received by audiences so far.
How did this film come about?
Ueli Steck had this really ambitious objective on Mount Everest. He was teaming up with Simone Moro, so we decided we wanted to try to make a film about it.
We had Jon Griffith shooting, and we were sending over our producer Zac Barr to base camp, and right before Zac left, news of this fight broke all of a sudden.
In a very short time period, we had to decide what we were going to do, and if we were still going to make a movie, and if we were, how we would tell this very controversial, complex, ultimately sad story.
We snapped into action and still sent Zac over to Everest base camp, where he was able to get some key interviews and acquire some unseen footage of the fight itself. We went around interviewing everyone we could, even from here in the United States.
How did you get the fight footage, since Griffith was involved in the fight?
Jonathan was defending himself. Jonathan got a few shots up on the Lhotse Face right before the incident, and then when they came down, Jonathan was more concerned with, frankly, his life. This is Everest, and even at Camp II, which is around 21,000 feet, there are people all over the place, and a few of them recorded video and we were able to find them.
The fight footage is so intense that it was also an added challenge, because our job as filmmakers was to unpack that and not just let the visual violence stand on its own and speak for itself, because that wouldn't really have been fair.
Can audiences expect some sort of resolution at the end of the film?
We were making this film right after the event happened. Often it takes some time for people to gain perspective on it, to understand it, to heal the wounds created by it. But at the same time, we're storytellers, and every good story that starts with a lot of tension usually winds up with some resolution to that tension. We had to look closely at the ways in which people were taking away from this event things that were constructive. People that were being proactive.
Do you know if Ueli Steck will go back to climb the route?
He never got to climb the route. He had been dreaming about it, preparing for it for years. It was poised to be the apogee of his career, a real high point. He was in the best shape of his life, arguably in the best shape that any alpinist has ever been in. He was getting ready to do this thing that was the next level. Is he going back? I don't know. I think partly you have to watch the movie to see how we address that. It's not out of the question.
This film premiered in Boulder at the REEL Rock festival in September. What was the reaction from audiences there?
They were walking away talking about big issues. The role of Westerners in foreign countries as climbers and adventure tourists. They were talking about the concept of the freedom of the hills and how much any particular group of people can lay claim and apply rules to a mountain. They were talking about was it Simone (Moro's) fault or was he innocent? Did the climbers in fact get what they deserved? I think what we wanted was a lot of people to be streaming out of the theater debating it between themselves and I did see a lot of that. That makes me happy.
Contact Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or firstname.lastname@example.org