Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the filmmaking team behind Meru and this year’s Free Solo, are the winners of the 2018 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence, which recognizes a mid-career filmmaker distinguished for observational cinema. They will share a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Drew Associates. The award will be presented at the Visionaries Tribute Award Luncheon at the DOC NYC Festival on November 8, 2018.
The award’s name celebrates Drew Associates’ Founder Robert Drew and his wife Anne, who was his filmmaking partner for more than four decades. The previous recipients were filmmaking partners Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Dawn Porter, Kim Longinotto and Laura Poitras.
A National Geographic Documentary Film, Free Solo is described as a stunning and unflinching portrait of free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock — the 3,200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park — without a rope. Honnold’s climb set the ultimate standard: perfection or death.
“The filmmakers reveal Alex Honnold’s complex internal landscape so skillfully that what their cameras capture as he climbs those sheer cliffs feels intimate, an authentic quest to fulfill who he is. The film is a marvel of storytelling as well as visual excellence,” said Jill Drew, general manager of Drew Associates.
Vasarhelyi has additional solo directing credits on other films including Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love, Touba, A Normal Life and the award-winning Incorruptible. Chin is also a professional climber and has an accomplished career as a photographer for National Geographic and other outlets.