‘Free Solo’ Creators to Direct New Projects for Nat Geo that ‘Push the Boundaries of Filmmaking’

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin will direct two feature documentaries, a 10-part series, and a one-hour pilot for National Geographic.
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Sipa USA via AP

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the duo behind 2018’s acclaimed documentary film “Free Solo,” will direct four new documentary projects for National Geographic.

Nat Geo announced on Tuesday that Vasarhelyi and Chin will direct two feature documentaries, a 10-part series, and a one-hour pilot. They will also produce all four projects via their production company, Little Monster Films.

The “Thai Cave Rescue” feature documentary is based on the against-all-odds story of the dramatic 2018 rescue of a boys’ soccer team trapped deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand and will include never-before-seen footage from the rescue. National Geographic described the “Tompkins” feature documentary as an intimate portrait of conservationist and former CEO of Patagonia, Inc., Kristine Tompkins, and the organization that she and Doug Tompkins founded together.

“National Geographic shares our deep commitment to bringing honest and inspiring stories to audiences around the world,” Vasarhelyi and Chin said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be working with them again on these powerful new projects that not only push the boundaries of filmmaking but also shine a light on the incredible resilience and determination of humankind.”

National Geographic’s synopsis for the 10-part series “Into the Unknown” states that it will take “audiences inside the minds of elite adventure athletes as they recount transformative stories of confronting fear, devastating personal loss, and Mother Nature at her harshest. Through intimate interviews and self-shot archival footage from surfers, climbers, snowboarders, wingsuit jumpers, polar explorers, and kayakers, learn how they prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for their high-stakes endeavors.”

“Photographer,” the duo’s one-hour pilot, will center on the partnership of conservation photographer Paul Nicklen and Christina Mittermeier.

The release dates for Vasarhelyi and Chin’s upcoming projects were not provided. The duo signed a first-look deal with National Geographic in 2019.

“Chai and Jimmy are masterful storytellers who bring unparalleled artistry and distinctive vision to everything they do,” Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of scripted content and documentary films for National Geographic, said in a statement. “We are proud to continue our partnership with them to tell these profound stories in an authentic yet innovative way.”

“Free Solo” won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2019 before going on to win six Emmys later that year. Following years of similar issues, the film also helped institute a rule change at the TV Academy, where projects nominated by the Film Academy would no longer be eligible at the Emmys.

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