Northwest Connections | 2017 | 96 minutes
SIFF Says:Mountaineering boasts many heroic figures: Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, George Mallory. And then there are the “dirtbags”: the rebellious, fearless climbers who forgo material needs, homes, manners, friendships, lovers―virtually everything―in pursuit of the next summit. Fred Beckey is the quintessential and original dirtbag climber, who, at 93, has made hundreds of first ascents since the 1940s and inspired countless young climbers to plan their next Alpine routes. With a gruff style that is off-putting to some, Beckey has also accumulated a mountain of hurt feelings and broken relationships along the way, but his prolific writings in 13 guidebooks have been widely praised among the mountaineering community. For decades he kept journals of his many exploits both on and off the mountains, describing the challenges he overcame and the breathtaking vistas that few other humans have witnessed. In Dirtbag, the eventful life of this stubborn Northwest native and proto-environmentalist is captured by director Dave O’Leske, who spent 10 years shadowing Beckey as he continued his journeys in the mountains of China and North America. With illuminating interviews of fellow climbers, including Conrad Anker, Reinhold Messner, and Jim Whittaker, plus spectacular aerial photography and rare archival footage, O’Leske’s documentary reveals the soul of a solitary, complex, sometimes infuriating athlete who is as misunderstood today as he was in his prime, but is no less respected by his peers.
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