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Free Tibet

DirectorMarek Klonowski
Producer Marek Klonowski
Reviewed byEd Douglas
DateMonday, 11 January 2010
Rating 2.5 out of 5


In 2008 Marek Klonowski and Tomasz Mackiewicz trekked 130km from Yakutat Bay to the base of Mount Logan's East Ridge, climbed to the peak's east summit, from 2400m to 5930m, and traversed the 3km summit ride to Logan's main summit before descending the King Trench Route to Hubbard's Landing, via some of the most miserable glacial terrain in the world, another 60km of walking, before they inflating a raft and floating a further 250km to Chitina.

It was a monstrous effort of endurance, performed in characteristically tough weather, and halfway through this film you begin to wonder if its Polish heroes will go batso before they finish. Faced with unending piles of moraine, tipped out of their raft and above all buried by metres of snow, they seem so freakishly upbeat that questioning their sanity seems, forgive the pun, perfectly reasonable.

The story-telling is often chaotic. We don't really have a grasp of where in the world we are or what the lads are doing until deep into the film, and there is no explanation for why the film is called 'Free Tibet'. But their eccentricities, lack of obvious bullshit and sheer bloody-mindedness shine out from their record of their adventures. The camera gets fogged, the snow falls, they even do a u-turn in the fog and discover, when the cloud lifts, they're off course by 180 degrees. But still they go on, with hardly a break in filming.

Perhaps the effort of finishing the five-week trip exhausted Klonowski, because the subtitling is among the worst and most engaging I've seen. At one point the translation says that there are 'very bed conditions and it's worm'. How insightful. How many adventures have been thwarted by 'bed conditions'.

Despite its flaws, Free Tibet has lots of energy, and you can't help but like its two protoganists and their unshakeable good humour. It also offers an insight into the stamina and toughness of Polish adventurers. If you have a chance to catch this at a festival, then it's well worth seeing.

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