Irish film about K2 disaster snapped up at Sundance by US media giant

21 Jan 2013

The Summit, a feature-length documentary shot by an Irish film crew chronicling one of the deadliest days in modern mountain history when 11 climbers, including Limerick man Ger McDonnell, lost their lives on K2, has been nominated for the documentary award at the Sundance Film Festival. It has also been selected for US TV distribution by Sundance Selects, a subsidiary of American media giant AMC, and is about to be broadcast to potentially 40m US homes.

The Summit – an Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Irish and Worldwide Productions production – was produced and directed by Nick Ryan of Image Now Films. The result will be announced on Saturday, 26 January.

Sundance Selects is a new theatrical and video-on-demand film label that provides a national platform in the US for independent films and documentaries that will be available in about 40m homes.

Sundance Selects, a subsidiary of IFC, which is owned by American media giant AMC, secured the US distribution rights over the weekend.

AMC is the studio behind the hit TV show The Walking Dead, which is shown on RTÉ 2 in Ireland and IFC previously produced Touching The Void, the 2003 documentary also about mountain climbing.

“Sundance Selects are the perfect partners and home for our film – I am genuinely happy to be a part of the IFC family,” says Nick Ryan.

Never seen before footage

The Summit is a thrilling, beautiful documentary that kept us on the edge of our seats. We’re thrilled to work with Nick Ryan and producers John Battsek, Pat Falvey, Darrell Kavanagh, and John McDonnell,” Jonathan Sehring, president of Sundance Selects/IFC Films, said.

The Summit includes never-before-seen footage of the climb and interviews with Sherpa Pemba Gyalje, who was awarded the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for his heroic deeds on K2; Norit team leader Wilco van Rooijen, who survived three days in the death zone; and Marco Confortola, the last man to speak to Ger McDonnell.

Twenty-four climbers from several international expeditions were originally on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on Earth, but within 48 hours later, 11 had been killed or had vanished, making it the worst K2 climbing disaster in history.

“To be selected for competition at Sundance is one of the highest levels of recognition for any film and it is a real honour for all those who worked so hard to bring The Summit to the screen. But then to be signed by Sundance Select and IFC is fantastic,” said Darrell Kavanagh, managing director of Image Now Films.

The Summit was produced in association with Passion Pictures, Diamond Docs and Fantastic Films and is funded by Irish Film Board, RTÉ, BAI and BBC.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years