by Sherif Awad
For viewers and critics alike, climbing action films on are defined by big Hollywood production like The Mountain starring Spencer Tracey, The Eiger Sanction starring Clint Eastwood, Cliffhanger starring Sylvester Stallone, and ensemble films belonging to the same genre like K2, The Vertical Limit and recently Everest.
Documentaries based on the adventures of real-life climbers are another experience: The new documentary Meru is one of those and it is finally arrives on BluRay and Video-On-Demand. Meru is tracking down three climbers—Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk—as they attempt to scale the top of the near-impossible Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, nestled on the Indian Himalayas. Directed by Chin, the film shows many aspects of human resistance, survival and friendship with meditation on life and death. The film is also co-directed by Jimmy Chin's wife Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi who went along with the other climbers for the ride. Their 2008 trip lasted for seven days, where they were caught in a snowstorm and the climb lasted three times more than its anticipated period. Three years later, the trio return to Meru despite a couple of near fatal accidents that have left two of them severely traumatized physically and psychologically.
According to professional climbers, the Meru climbing is extremely difficult as it requires a high level of competency in every type of climbing: mixed climbing, ice climbing, snow climbing, rock climbing, aid climbing. Each one of the climbers had one camera and several lenses. For the obviously power constraints and storage constraints, the crew had to be selective in what to shoot and when.
The filmmakers succeeded to edit the interviews and the climbing shots of to explain how they got together and describe their experiences on Meru. Anker's friend and fellow climber, Jon Krakauer, who wrote "Into Thin Air" which was made into Everest. After these two trips, the filmmakers spent months editing and assembling all the footage into the documentary before travelling the following year for three months on Everest with David Breashears and Stephen Daldry shooting second unit footage for Everest. Working bigger budget productions like Everest had helped the filmmakers/climbers to understand all the moving parts and aspects of filmmaking beyond the shooting like producing and directing. For Sure, this documentary will appeals to climbers since it shows how they feel, think, and experience. But also, owners of big home theatre system will enjoy the visuals and music score in addition to the real-life sounds on their screens.