Return to Mount Kennedy is not about Mountaineering. Yes, there are stills and video from the historic 1965 First Ascent by Bobby Kennedy and Jim Whitaker as well as the 50th Anniversary attempt by Whitaker’s two sons Leif and Bobby and Kennedy’s son Christopher. There are snow fields, crevasses, snowshoes, crampons, ice axes and various shots of Mount Kennedy, but this film is not a mountaineering film. Rather, it is about how a Mountain in the Canadian St. Elias Range served to introduce and eventually bond two generations of families, the families of Bobby Kennedy and Jim Whitaker.
I remember reading about the first ascent of Mount Kennedy in my Dad’s old July, 1965 National Geographic when I was still a teenager. I read Jim Whitaker’s memoir A Life on the Edge when it was first published. I recently reread those three National Geographic articles as well as an article in the April 9, 1965 issue Life as I awaited the delivery of Return to Mount Kennedy.
Watching Return to Mount Kennedy rekindled memories and feelings associated with the assassination of JFK in 1963 and RFK in 1968. It reminded me of some of what I had read in Whitaker’s memoir but had forgotten about. It served as a testament to how mountains and mountaineering can forge lifelong friendships that transcend generations. It served to reignite my own desire to venture forth into the mountains. It made me proud to be a member of REI since 1974.
I loaned an old copy of National Geographic and my Return to Mount Kennedy DVD it to a co-worker with some mountaineering experience. After watching the video, she agreed that this was not the film she was expecting to see, but she still liked it. A little younger than I, she was glad she read the three articles in National Geographic before watching the film.
@John This is a great review of a really good movie.
I agree with your assessment that there are so many more layers to this story than simply 'climbing a mountain'. I feel like the filmmakers did a great job balancing so many different perspectives into one movie. Based partly on your review I purchased the movie instead of renting it, and I'm very glad I did. I have watched it twice now already (finally bought it last week) and it seems like one of those movies where you are going to pick up something different each time you watch it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I am glad my review did not lead you astray. Many different stories intersect in this film and if it were longer it could have gone in a number of directions.