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The Conquest of Everest At The Film Archive

On 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest. The Film Archive celebrates the 60 year anniversary of their awe-inspiring achievement by screening The Conquest of Everest (1953). This is the official film record of the ascent, filmed by British film technicians who were part of the expedition team.

Still from The Conquest of Everest (1953) is courtesy of the New Zealand Film Archive.

The film received an Academy Award nomination in the “Best Documentary Feature” category in 1954.

“It would be hard to exaggerate the impact of Conquest of Everest - and of course the expedition it portrays - on the cinema audiences of 1953. Made by Countryman Films, a small production company more accustomed to shooting cute animal documentaries, and financed on a relatively small budget of £8,000, it hoovered up accolades and audiences around the world [...] Poet Louis MacNeice’s commentary captures the tension and physical struggle of the climb, and adds romance and emotion to the spectacular photography. The film foregrounds small human details - the father and son team of scientists, close friendships and personality quirks against an epic backdrop. To convey the challenge of the icy landscape, MacNeice quaintly compares the South Col to the moon: ‘a place outside of human experience.’” - Ann Ogidi,

“More than a slapdash compilation of incidentally taken photographs, picked up by the climbers at odd moments—as such records often are—this is a skillful visualization of drama of the most tremendous sort, filmed in magnificent color and edited, scored, and presented in brilliant style [...] It is when the sturdy band of climbers push up into the ice and snow, higher and higher and higher, to the face of the great Everest massif, where the wind howls with banshee terror and the soul of man is naked and alone—here is where this picture record takes on a rare magnificence. And the last grinding, staggering pictorialization of the final assault against the top of the world by a handful of heroes in the rarefied vastness is a photographic triumph beyond compare.” - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, 1954

The Conquest of Everest will screen at the Film Archive, Wellington. 7pm Wednesday through Saturday, 29 May - 1 June.

Updated on 23rd July 2015