Jimmy Chin '96 picks up Oscar for Best Documentary Feature

"Free Solo," a National Geographic film co-directed and co-produced by Jimmy Chin '96 and wife E. Chai Vasarhelyi, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

Feb. 25, 2019

"Free Solo," a National Geographic film co-directed and co-produced by Jimmy Chin '96 and wife E. Chai Vasarhelyi, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, at the 91st Academy Awards. Watch the duo’s acceptance speech.

Four years in the making, "Free Solo" chronicles the first-ever free solo climb of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. The film follows rock climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the 3,000-foot face of the world's most famous rock, without a rope.

“Free Solo” also won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary and many other industry awards. It is the second documentary film for Chin. His first, 2015’s “Meru”—also about a climb—won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and was nominated for an Academy Award.

Raised in Mankato, Minnesota, Chin first took up climbing while studying at Carleton. After graduation in 1996, he moved out west and focused on climbing, skiing, photography and filmmaking. Aside from his many film and photography awards, Chin counts among his professional achievements a stint as cinematographer for a high-profile National Geographic trek across Tibet’s Chang Tang Plateau, a spot on the first American team to ski off the summit of Mount Everest, and the dozens of exploratory expeditions and first ascents he's completed around the globe as a member of The North Face Athlete Team.

"Free Solo" is available for purchase through a variety of streaming services and is currently screening at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. Watch the film's trailer online.