Archive gala at the 57th BFI London Film Festival to be the world premiere of restored 1924 doc Epic of Everest.
The BFI National Archive’s gala screening at the 57th BFI London Film Festival (Oct 9-20) is the world premiere of the newly restored official film record of the legendary 1924 Everest expedition, The Epic of Everest
The 85-minute film will have a new score performed live by composer Simon Fisher Turner with a specially created musical ensemble featuring electronic music, found sounds, western and Nepalese instruments and vocals.
The Epic of Everest, directed by Captain John Noel, will have a simultaneous release in cinemas nationwide on Oct 18 including the BFI Southbank from Oct 19.
Robin Baker, head curator at the BFI National Archive, described the film as one of its “greatest treasures”.
“It represents a key moment in the history of mountaineering and remains an enduring monument to Mallory and Irvine,” added Baker.
“This film is a precious record of endurance and is a powerful piece of cinema now beautifully restored to show how Everest was so nearly conquered. It is highly appropriate to present the film now, just 60 years since Everest was finally conquered by a British expedition and 100 years since Captain John Noel, the film’s director, first set eyes on the mountain itself.”
The 1924 Everest expedition marked the third attempt to climb Everest and culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an ongoing debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit.
Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a specially adapted camera, the film is also among the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery.
The restoration by the BFI National Archive has transformed the quality of the surviving elements of the film and reintroduced the original coloured tints and tones, going back to the earliest surviving elements donated to the BFI in the 1960s.
The BFI has also worked closely with Captain Noel’s daughter, Sandra Noel, to review the surviving materials. Before his death in 1989 Captain Noel had been in correspondence with the BFI about creating a definitive version of his film.
The first reconnaissance trip was undertaken in 1921 and no moving images are known to exist. The 2nd Everest expedition took place in 1922 and Captain John Noel took the first ever film of the mountain, which is also the first ever film shot in Tibet. For the 3rd Everest expedition in 1924 Noel bought the rights to all still photography and moving image material and was himself the official cameraman.
The BFI is the UK distributor and world rights holder.