The Dawn Wall
Photo by Corey Rich

Narrating maybe the toughest big wall climb in history, ‘The Dawn Wall’ aims to help take sports action films to a new theatrical level

BERLIN – Sender Films is teaming with Red Bull Media House for “The Dawn Wall,” the 2015 story of the first free ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan. Deal sees Red Bull Media House, the world’s action sports movie industry driver, fully financing, distributing and selling “Dawn Wall,” according to Philipp Manderla, RBMH head of feature films.

Seven years in preparation, the scaling of the 3,000-foot sheer granite face of El Capitan by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson captured the world’s imagination sparking massive social media engagement, a front-page the New York Times story, and even a President Obama congratulatory post saying “anything is possible.”a

Equally, RBMH and Sender aim for “Dawn Wall” to take the burgeoning action sports movie scene to the new level – U.S. theatrical distribution, following on Music Box’s release in U.S. theaters of “Meru,” a 2015 Sundance Fest Audience Award winner.

Illustrating the step-up in ambitions of action sports movies, “Dawn Wall” is a docu-feature that records not only the 19-day free climb, but the back story and psychological journey of its climbers, Manderla said. According to Manderla, Caldwell suffered abduction by Islamist radicals in Kyrgyzstan, a breathtaking escape, marriage and divorce to a fellow hostage, then a years-long obsession with climbing Dawn Wall, described by one fellow climber as his Moby Dick.

On the wall itself, one of the ascent’s 31 pitches, nearly all 5.12 or above, took Jorgenson one week and 10 attempts to climb.

“Dawn Wall is one of the biggest achievements in the history of climbing, sparked huge interest outside climbing circles and has the capacity to reach a far broader audience,” said Manderla. Key to that would be big festival exposure, he added.

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