AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Don Simpson | October 26, 2011
Director: Wout Conijn
Bas, Roelof and Evert embark upon a 1,000 kilometer bike trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu tackling Himalayan mountain passes that are over 5,000 meters high. Oh, and did I mention that all three men are handicapped? Bas and Roelof cannot walk, so they must peddle with their hands; despite partial paralyses and aphasia, Evert is able to peddle with his feet.
As Dutch documentary director Wout Conijn follows the three men across the Himalayas, sometimes the physical obstacles get the better of them, other times the hurdles are purely mental. Nonetheless, the three men soldier onward, pushing themselves to their absolute limits in an attempt to complete their journey.
The Conquest of High Passes is an amazing portrait of three exemplary people whose inner strengths are forced to compensate for their physical handicaps. The documentary clocks in at just under 60 minutes, making it a prime candidate for television; however, the abbreviated running time left me craving for a lot more information about these extraordinary men. I was also a little disappointed by the cinematography, which I expected to be much more visual. Instead of taking in the gorgeous vistas — maybe using some wide shots to reveal the truly treacherous terrain these men are traversing — we spend most of our time in close-ups and medium shots of the men and the road. I feel like I never really got a feel for the overwhelming power of the mountains. By keeping the framing tight, Conijn opts to focus on the internal struggles of his subjects, rather than their quest to conquer one of nature’s most strenuous bicycle courses.