Congratulations to our friends E. Chai Vasarheyli and Jimmy Chin on winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Their film, Free Solo, which chronicles Alex Honnold’s ropes-free ascent of El Capitan, took home the top honor for documentary films last night.

Last month, we had the honor of welcoming Vasarheyli and Chin as the keynote speakers at Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates’ Global Networking Event. As the filmmakers told us that night, Free Solo is about much more than climbing. The film grapples with overcoming obstacles and dealing with fears of the unknown. Vasarhelyi noted that the couple’s movie is equal parts adventure and character study with applications that reach far beyond the mountains.

Free Solo Poster

There were also significant moral questions the filmmakers had to ask, Vasarhelyi and Chin added. The ethical question of whether the film crew’s presence could affect Honnold’s ascent loomed large. “Ultimately, we had the confidence that we could film without impacting Alex’s climb,” Chin told the Global Networking Event. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been there. But we did have to ask some difficult ethical questions, like what if he weren’t to make it—what if something catastrophic happened?”

The Academy Award for Best Documentary was presented to Vasarhelyi, Chin, Honnold and the film crew by Helen Mirren and Jason Momoa. The co-directors were understandably elated. “Thank you, National Geographic, for believing in us,” Vasarahelyi said. “Thank you, Alex Honnold, for giving us courage and teaching us how to believe in the impossible and inspiring us. This film is for everyone who believes in the impossible.”

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