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Filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin talk about the ethics and process behind filming what must have been the most stressful documentary to make of all time – free solo climber Alex Honnold climbing El Capitan in Yosemite Park.


The filmmakers were faced with a genuine ethical dilemma of whether it is ok to film someone risking their life in such a way, and had to tailor the production around keeping Alex safe whilst also preserving the legitimacy of his experience.

what if he falls the terrifying reality behind filming “free solo” op-docs gif1

With no ropes or safety equipment, Honnold’s ascent broke records and is seen as one of the biggest achievements in climbing history. Aside from the climb itself, the challenges the filmmakers themselves faced to document it are enough to give you sweaty hands and a sick feeling in your stomach.

New York Times|Op-Docs|Alex Honnold

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