China's first UHD 4K documentary film of mountaineering
The world's first film shooting the whole process of climbing to the summit of Mount Qomolangma from the north slope
The first film using aerial photography on Mount Qomolangma at the altitude of 6,800 meters
The first film bringing tripod up to the summit of Mount Qomolangma
The first film shooting the “highest” school in the world
4-year production, 300-plus-days of shooting, and 1 out of 500 footages actually used
Co-produced by top filming teams from different countries
A film bought by BBC, NHK, KBS and Discovery Channel
A feature-length documentary of 88 minutes and 44 seconds
Limited release in 15 cities of China in August
Projecting in more cinemas probably in September
Click to watch trailer
Walking in the valleys of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, we can often see small ladders painted by Tibetans using white pigment on rock wall, which is called "Ladder to Paradise" by the local people. Legend has it that after death a person will drift for a while before reincarnation and his family hopes the deceased person could use this white ladder to enter the paradise for reincarnation.
Both Tingri County and Nyalam County of Tibet Autonomous Region are at the foot of Mount Qomolangma. Every year, Tibet Mountaineering School, the only school in the world training mountain guide, will come here to select children from the pasturing areas who can adapt themselves to the environment of high altitude. After finishing junior high school, they will receive four-year tough training. Some of them would become excellent mountain guide and might scale Mount Qomolangma. The filming team spent four years here to shoot this group of people.
How do Tibetan youngsters grow from herdsmen's children into international mountain guide？
How is their youth different from others？
How many painstaking efforts will they have pay before appreciating the extreme beauty of the perilous summit？
Will their ordinary life be changed by mountaineering？
The film Ladder to Paradise faithfully documents the ultimate mountaineering, thrilling moment of life and death, majestic scenery of Mount Qomolangma, growth and youth of Tibetan youngsters and how they make choices at the crossroad for their destiny against the background of rapid social development.
For those living elsewhere who will never reach Mount Qomolangma, the film can work as a mirror to reflect their own choices and touch their hearts, as it presents the unique experience and living state of the special group of Tibetan youngsters Thus it might provides them with an outlet for their life. Compared with youngsters of many other places, people here are more likely to follow their hearts. They simply like what they really like and dislike what they don’t like.
Director Xiao Han said, “people with rich social experience tend to focus on external and material conditions when deciding whether they like a person or something, but the Tibetan people are different, because they are very natural in front of cameras, which is pretty touching.”
There were many difficulties in the process of shooting, such as protecting machines from freeze and altitude sickness of the crew. "In the year we shot the film, there was a great avalanche. All the 16 people climbing from the south slope died. This year we heard from children of the mountaineering school that when the violent earthquake occurred in Nepal, they were just on the mountain and narrowly escaped from being hit by a big ice lump with a diameter of more than 10 meters. So it was really a critical moment of life and death." I was in Tibet or Nepal when the snowstorm of the Himalayas in 2013, the avalanche of Nepal in 2014, and the earthquake of the Himalayas in April this year struck. And I have a deep understanding of the dangers he mentioned.
I was impressed by the multi-dimensional aerial photography when the film shows the climbing process. Director Xiao told me that they used 4k camera to shoot below the altitude of 6800 meters and 2k camera above 6800, which set the record of highest aerial photography. In fact I have tried to fly mini plane of the same brand in Tibet for several times. Thin air, low temperature and strong wind made it very hard to control.
"Our shooting budget has been exceeded, and now we have no way to raise more money for promotion."
I asked Director Xiao how much have they spent. He told me that they planned to spend 3,000,000 Yuan, but in the end spent 13,000,000 Yuan to finish the shooting. 13,000,000 Yuan is less than one third of the promotion cost of the film Tiny Times, but with regard to a documentary film, it is already an astronomical figure.
How to persuade cinemas to arrange a good show time for this film so as to give Chinese audiences access to homemade documentary film? The precondition is to get more people know about it. With promotion budget tightening and time for release drawing nearer, how to solve this problem has become the most discussed topic of Director Xiao and me.
"It took us 4 years to produce Ladder to Paradise. Today we have got the Permit for Film Projection, which means it can be shown in cinemas all over the country. BUT it doesn’t mean that the cinema will show it! Although only on the big screen can we really appreciate the splendor of Mount Qomolangma, although projecting a documentary film in the cinema is a dream of several generations of documentary film producers and although many countries in the world have shown documentary films in their mainstream cinemas, it is extremely difficult for a documentary film to be widely projected in the cinema as a common film usually does! BUT we firmly believe that this documentary film should be shown in the cinema. Only the big screen is where it belongs. Only in the cinema can audiences really understand the charm of documentary and sense the strong emotion inspired by Ladder to Paradise!"