Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snows of Aorangi (1958)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects

The 1950's saw a wave of interest in mountaineering. Mount Everest's summit was reached for the first time in 1953, and K2 was conquered just over a year later in 1954. Aorangi or Aoraki, the Maori name for the mountain better known as Mount Cook, had first been climbed in 1894, but this route was not repeated until 1955, seven years after Sir Edmund Hillary first climbed the mountain.

It was against this backdrop that New Zealand's National Film Unit commissioned photographer Brian Brake to create a tourism promotional film, featuring the beauty of Aorangi. The film, just under twenty minutes long, is a very straightforward look at the mountain, and is made up of gorgeous landscape shots of the mountain. The narration is nothing special, but it was easy to ignore as I focused on the beauty of the images. The short is perhaps best remembered for its long shots of skiers descending down the mountain, and this rhythmic sequence made me run to Expedia to look up July in New Zealand.

It is easy to write off "Snows of Aorangi" as a dated travelogue, and the film is undoubtedly more of a historical artifact than a vibrant piece of filmmaking. Yet films like this were the predecessor to the IMAX films of today that explore worlds such as the depths of the ocean and outer space. For a film like "Snows of Aorangi" to have been filmed in 1958 is just as impressive as these modern films. What could have been a simple promotional film is instead a visually captivating historical record of a mountain at a time when it represented one of the most exciting places on the planet.

Thanks to the great website NZ On Screen, "Snows of Aorangi" can be viewed online at

Remaining: 3145 films, 870 Oscars, 5410 nominations

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