Q&A: Jennifer Peedom Paints a Pastoral Picture in ‘Mountain’

Narrated by Willem Dafoe, MOUNTAIN takes the viewer on a sweeping journey to the most awe-inspiring summits on earth. A collaboration between BAFTA-nominated director Jennifer Peedom and Richard Tognetti’s Australian Chamber Orchestra, the film glorifies our species’ pursuit of peril: from ice climbers, snowboarders, and wing-suiters, the thrill-seekers’ daredevil antics will leave audiences gasping for breath. Filmed in 15 countries and assembled from 2,000 hours of hypnotizing footage, MOUNTAIN is a beautifully scored and visually stunning work that vividly captures the fear and reverence inspired by the world’s highest peaks.

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What a pastoral and beautiful film! Please describe MOUNTAIN in your own words.

Jennifer Peedom: Mountain is a cinematic and musical odyssey that explores the nature of our fascination with mountains. It’s a collaboration with the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO).  

What inspired you to make this film?

Jennifer Peedom: I was approached by the Orchestra three years ago to collaborate on a work about mountains, and I loved the idea of making a film with this world-class orchestra. Having made many films in the mountains, including SHERPA [HIFF 2015], I saw it as an opportunity to explore the human relationship to mountains.  

There are so many moving pieces to this film, from the various locations to the soundtrack to the narration. How long did it take you to make MOUNTAIN?

Jennifer Peedom: From concept to delivery took three years. Working with an orchestra blows the schedule out, as they have very long lead times!  

Do you have any “lightning strikes” moments (literal or figurative) you can share from the production? Nature is fickle.

Jennifer Peedom: Willem Dafoe agreeing to become our narrator. That was a good day.

You have made other documentaries about nature in the past, including SHERPA, which screened at HIFF two years ago. What was different for you about this film?

Jennifer Peedom: This film is totally different to anything I’ve made before. Due to the nature of the collaboration with the ACO, it is more of an immersive work. The humans play supporting roles to the mountains and there is no dialogue. It’s less documentary, and more experimental cinema. Probably closer to the BARAKA, or KOYANAAISQATSI  genre of filmmaking.

Are you a mountain climber yourself? What was the wildest adventure you’ve had on a mountain (aside from this beautiful film, of course)!

Jennifer Peedom: I’ve never really considered myself a mountaineer, but I did spent a lot of time working as a filmmaker on mountains when I was younger. I worked on three Everest expeditions before making this film. I’ve had some pretty special moments in the mountains.

What are you hoping Hamptons audiences will take away from MOUNTAIN?

Jennifer Peedom: A fuller and richer understanding of why people continue to seek out risk and adventure, even at the cost of their own lives. That, and a sense of humility and awe.

Check out the U.S. Premiere of MOUNTAIN in the Documentary Competition section of HIFF25. Find tickets.