Film About Rock Climber from Sacramento Wins the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature

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(L-R) Evan Hayes, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Shannon Dill, Alex Honnold and Sanni McCandless accept the Documentary (Feature) award for ‘Free Solo’ onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Free Solo” climbed to the top of the Oscars, winning best documentary feature.

The film about rock climber Alex Honnold’s quest to ascend the famed El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park without ropes in June 2017 was honored on Sunday night.

Husband-and-wife directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi were challenged by the conditions: filming Honnold without affecting his climb of 3,000 feet of sheer granite and getting sound because he was often too far from the camera.

“Hanging off the wall I couldn’t see Alex alone. I just had to trust that he was being perfect,” Chin said backstage. “We also had to carry the weight of the entire production of being perfect. If we had made any mistakes it could have been catastrophic.”

Onstage, Chai Vasarhelyi thanked National Geographic, which made the film, “for believing in us and for hiring women and people of color because we only help make the films better.”

“This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible,” she said. “It was the work of an army.”

In the wings, Chin was speechless as actor Jason Momoa gave him an Aquaman-worthy whoop and bear hug, while Chai Vasarhelyi said, “Oh my God, I think I have to cry now.”

Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi still appeared in awe backstage.

“It’s completely surreal,” Chin said. “We feel like interlopers.”

Producer Evan Hayes said Honnold lives a rugged existence, so he was thoroughly enjoying his brush with Hollywood.

“He’s embedded, thrilled,” Hayes said. “He deserves so much of the credit for this.”

Honnold is a Sacramento native and did some of his first-ever climbing at Pipeworks Climbing Gym.

The film has grossed over $19 million worldwide.

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