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The Conquest of Everest


Wed 14 Oct 2015, 6:00pm–7:20pm

Where: AUT Auckland - Sir Paul Reeves Building, 2 Governor Fitzroy Place, CBD, Auckland

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Screening in lecture theatre WG126, Sir Paul Reeves Building. Presented in partnership with AUT and Colab.

Earlier this month the British production "Everest" (2015) opened the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. That film focuses on the survival attempts of two expedition groups, one led by New Zealander Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). In this odd reversal, we have several Hollywood A-listers playing New Zealanders, complete with wobbly antipodean accents.

In the 1996 Mount Everest disaster eight people were caught in a blizzard and died on Mount Everest during summit attempts. It gained wide publicity and raised questions about the commercialization of Everest. While climbers died on both the North Face and South Col approaches, the events on the South Face are better known – partly because journalist Jon Krakauer was in a party led by New Zealand guide Rob Hall that lost four climbers on the south side.

The New Zealand connection to the world’s tallest mountain is an important one. On 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest. We celebrate their awe-inspiring achievement by screening "The Conquest of Everest" (1953). This is the official film record of the ascent, filmed by British film technicians who were part of the expedition team. The film received an Academy Award nomination in the “Best Documentary Feature” category in 1954.

“It would be hard to exaggerate the impact of 'Conquest of Everest' – and of course the expedition it portrays – on the cinema audiences of 1953. Made by Countryman Films, a small production company more accustomed to shooting cute animal documentaries, and financed on a relatively small budget of £8,000, it hoovered up accolades and audiences around the world [...] Poet Louis MacNeice’s commentary captures the tension and physical struggle of the climb, and adds romance and emotion to the spectacular photography. The film foregrounds small human details – the father and son team of scientists, close friendships and personality quirks against an epic backdrop. To convey the challenge of the icy landscape, MacNeice quaintly compares the South Col to the moon: ‘a place outside of human experience.’” - Ann Ogidi,

“More than a slapdash compilation of incidentally taken photographs, picked up by the climbers at odd moments—as such records often are—this is a skilful visualization of drama of the most tremendous sort, filmed in magnificent colour and edited, scored, and presented in brilliant style [...] It is when the sturdy band of climbers push up into the ice and snow, higher and higher and higher, to the face of the great Everest massif, where the wind howls with banshee terror and the soul of man is naked and alone — here is where this picture record takes on a rare magnificence. And the last grinding, staggering pictorialization of the final assault against the top of the world by a handful of heroes in the rarefied vastness is a photographic triumph beyond compare.” - Bosley Crowther, 'New York Times,' 1954

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