FQ Columnist Caetlin Benson-Allott explores the complex ethical dimensions of Free Solo, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's Oscar-winning documentary about Alex Honnold's death-defying “free solo” climb of El Capitan, Yosemite's legendary three-thousand-foot granite cliff. Benson-Allott asks how our understanding that Honnold could die on camera, a probability that the film reflexively acknowledges, violates the spectatorial contract that exists between films and their audiences. She also probes the gendered strategies employed by Free Solo's in its representation of risk, which she discusses in comparison to other documentaries, including Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man and The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner.
On Platforms: Watching without a Rope
Caetlin Benson-Allott is Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor of English and Film & Media Studies at Georgetown University and editor of JCMS. She is also the author of Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (2013) and Remote Control (2015).
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Caetlin Benson-Allott; On Platforms: Watching without a Rope. Film Quarterly 1 June 2019; 72 (4): 68–73. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2019.72.4.68
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