Documentary about death-defying climb up Yosemite's El Capitan in running for Oscar consideration
Free Solo, the documentary about Alex Honnold's daring no-rope ascent of Yosemite's El Capitan, is reaching new heights.
The film by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin surpassed the $10 million plateau at the documentary box office over the weekend, according to audience tracking firm comScore. For most of its 10 weeks of release, Free Solo has held onto the number one spot among nonfiction films, as it did again this past weekend.
I think people are very satisfied by watching someone have this audacious dream, and actually achieving it.
Free Solo becomes the fourth documentary of the year to cross $10 million, after Won't You Be My Neighbor? ($22.6 million); RBG ($14 million), and Three Identical Strangers ($12.3 million).
"It's a great year for docs and we're just grateful to be included," Vasarhelyi told Nonfictionfilm.com. "People are looking at documentaries as very meaningful entertainment. And there's something in the zeitgeist, right? Maybe it's about the time we're living in."
The film documents in suspenseful detail how Honnold accomplished a near-impossible mission: climbing the shear rock face of El Capitan -- 3,000 feet of granite -- without ropes. He memorized every inch of his route, adjusting with micro precision to each crevice, contour and indentation as he ascended. Any false move would have brought instant death.
"It's truly one of the great human physical and mental achievements, in my opinion, of our time -- if not, more than our time," Chin marveled. "Just to be able to see it unfold in front of your eyes was really an incredible gift for all of us."
The film has qualified for Oscar consideration and is making a strong bid to claim a spot on the Academy's shortlist of 15 docs, which will be revealed on December 17.
Vasarhelyi expresses gratitude for the audience reception of the film.
"The fact that people are responding to it is very, very meaningful to us," she told us. "I think people are very satisfied by watching someone have this audacious dream, and actually achieving it."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.