As the mountaineering genre continues to gain in popularity, a PhD student is waiting for a dissertation on male climbers and their mothers, wives, or partners. This relationship, cited in the Academy Award-winning Free Solo and Summer Climber, gets screen time in 14 Peaks: Nothing Impossible about Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja, aka Nimsday, and his trying to conquer the top of the world. 14 highest peaks in seven months. (The previous record was seven years.) While his wife, Suchi Purja, charmingly tries to explain to civilians her husband’s willingness to take risks, his ailing mother teaches more gentle lessons about her son’s aspiration, but also about the mortality with which we we all collide.
As a young man, Purja joined his country’s legendary military, the Gurkhas, and later joined the United Kingdom Special Forces. He seized on his climbing endeavor, which he called “Project Possible,” as a way to highlight the contributions of Nepalese climbers who, more than Sherpas, participate in Western expeditions. Initially, the four other climbers of the project – Mingma David Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa and Gesman Tamang – are presented as vital characters. They are as devoted to Purji’s seemingly insane mission as he is.
Most of the footage from the documentary about the ascent was filmed by Purja and his team. Director Thorkil Jones uses these imagery, as well as fresh interviews (Alpine legend Reinhold Messner becomes beautifully existential) and flamboyant animation to create a documentary that explores themes of generosity, danger, drive and national character.
Expanding its range – from ascents to visiting the home of Purj’s childhood as well as brief dives into Nepal’s history – 14 Summits expands a genre, often focusing on the exploits of individuals, to celebrate lessons about big dreams and social connections.
14 peaks: nothing is impossible
Not rated. The duration of the performance is 1 hour 39 minutes. Watch on Netflix.