On Oct. 5, 1999, legendary climber Alex Lowe was tragically lost alongside cameraman and fellow climber David Bridges in a deadly avalanche on the slopes of the Tibetan mountain, Shishapangma. Miraculously surviving the avalanche was Alex’s best friend and climbing partner, renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker. After the tragedy, Anker and Alex’s widow, Jennifer, fell in love and married, and Anker stepped in to help raise Alex’s three sons. Torn will deliver a profoundly intimate look at the Lowe-Anker family using never-before-released archival footage of the ill-fated 1999 expedition, early footage of Alex and Anker as young climbers, personal home videos and strikingly candid interviews with the Lowe-Ankers, the film will follow Max in his quest to understand his iconic late father as he explores family’s complex relationships in the wake of his father’s death.
About the Filmmakers
MAX LOWE is a filmmaker and photographer known for the short films “Slacker,” “Adventure Not War,” “Sky Migrations” and, most recently, “Bare Existence.” He has produced commercial still and film content for brands such as The North Face, Calvin Klein and Toyota. Lowe has been on shoots taking him up Alaska’s Inside Passage, into the deserts of the Sahara and to the high peaks of the Himalaya, as well as journeying to Antarctica by sea on three separate expeditions.
From a young age, Lowe was exposed to the magic of traveling to and observing some of the world’s most remote cultures and environments. Taking up storytelling as his mission, he received a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant in 2012. Since then, he has shot and produced for The Atlantic, National Geographic Adventure and National Geographic magazines. In addition to being seen on the BBC and in the IMAX film “National Parks Adventure,” Lowe has appeared in publications such as Science magazine, Men’s Journal and Outside magazine.
From his backyard in Bozeman, Montana, to the far corners of the globe, Lowe has witnessed countless extraordinary moments, wildlife encounters and interactions with people from vastly different walks of life. It is from these experiences that his passion to capture stories and bring them to the world stems.
CHRIS MURPHY is an award-winning Filipino American filmmaker with an established history as a director, producer and cinematographer in the brand content and entertainment industry. Murphy grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he spent his time roaming the streets and concrete surfaces on a skateboard while incessantly following his friends around with a Hi8 DV camera. His humble beginnings of documenting familial characters and editing the footage on a homemade linear VHS tape-to-tape system evolved into a full-blown obsession that led him to a successful career in filmmaking.
Murphy has directed and produced brand content for Red Bull, Leica Camera, Vans, Yeti Coolers, Arc’teryx and Land Rover. His commercial work paved a solid foundation for his thoughtful, creative process and aptitude for powerful storytelling. He went on to work as a cinematographer on Spike Jonze’s skate film “Pretty Sweet,” feature documentary “Waiting for Lightning,” Nat Geo Wild’s “America the Wild,” and he recently finished shooting on a BBC series. Chris has created intro sequences for the Red Bull films “Art of Flight” and “The Fourth Phase,” and most recently directed and produced the award-winning snowboard film “Depth Perception.”
Murphy’s curiosity and empathetic nature, coupled with his genuine interest in people, are evident in the way he connects with characters through his camera. His innate ability to capture moments of truth and observing narratives that unfold through his lens is what drives him to continue documenting deserving and vulnerable human stories. He lives and adventures in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife, two children and two dogs, and he is currently producing a personal untitled documentary film project.
JONATHAN CHINN is an Academy Award-nominated and double Emmy Award-winning producer and co-founder of Lightbox, a multinational media company headquartered in London and Los Angeles, focused on creating high-quality nonfiction programming for film, television and digital platforms. He and his cousin, double Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn, founded Lightbox in 2014.
Since its formation, Lightbox has produced many notable projects, including documentary films “Atari: Game Over” and “The Thread” for Xbox Entertainment Studios, an ESPN 30 for 30 film about the 2006 Duke Lacrosse scandal entitled “Fantastic Lies,” “Gypsy’s Revenge” for Investigation ID. They also produced several series for both the U.K. and U.S. markets, such as “The Traffickers” and “Food Exposed” for Fusion, “Inside British Vogue” for BBC, “The Runner-Up” for Esquire, “War Child” for Channel 4 and the groundbreaking series “Captive” for Netflix.
Lightbox’s recent projects include the theatrical feature “Whitney,” directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival; National Geographic’s Emmy-winning and Oscar®-shortlisted film “LA 92”; the Oscar-nominated documentary short “Black Sheep”; and “Untouchable,” the company’s most recent feature doc about Harvey Weinstein, which premiered at Sundance in 2019 in advance of its launch on BBC Two and Hulu; “Diagnosis,” the groundbreaking Netflix Original documentary produced by Lightbox in partnership with Scott Rudin Productions and The New York Times; and “Tell Me Who I Am,” a feature documentary for Netflix about memory, secrets and unbreakable family bonds, which premiered at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival.
Prior to co-founding Lightbox, Jonathan was one of the most respected nonfiction television showrunners in the U.S., winning an Emmy for “American High” (Fox/PBS) and the prestigious Television Academy Honors for “30 Days” (FX), the latter of which went on to become FX’s highest-rated unscripted series. Other producing credits include “Kid Nation” (CBS), “Push Girls” (Sundance), and “Hotel Hell” (FOX).
SIMON CHINN is a double Oscar-winning producer who is responsible for some of the most successful feature documentaries of recent years.
In 2005, he conceived and produced his first theatrical feature documentary, “Man on Wire.” It went on to win over 40 international awards including the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. He followed that up with a string of multiple award-winning feature documentaries, including “Project Nim,” “The Imposter,” “The Green Prince,” “Garnet’s Gold,” “Bolshoi Babylon” and “Searching for Sugar Man,” which also won a BAFTA and an Academy Award and made over $20 million at the international box office. In 2015 he teamed up with his old school friend Louis Theroux to produce “My Scientology Movie,” Theroux’s first theatrical doc. It grossed £1.1 million at the U.K. box office, making it one of the highest-grossing feature docs of all time in the U.K.
Simon launched Lightbox in 2014 with his Los Angeles-based cousin, Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn. Focused on producing high-end nonfiction, including series, feature documentaries and shorts, for multiple platforms, Lightbox has completed major projects for Xbox Studios, Netflix, Fusion, Esquire Network, Channel 4, BBC, FX, National Geographic and ESPN. Its feature doc on the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “LA 92” for National Geographic, won a primetime Emmy and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. Their documentary short “Black Sheep,” made with The Guardian, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2019. Lightbox’s most recent projects include “Diagnosis,” a series for Netflix produced in partnership with Scott Rudin and the New York Times; “Untouchable,” a feature doc about the Weinstein scandal for Hulu and the BBC, which launched at the Sundance Film Festival; and “Tell Me Who I Am,” a feature doc for Netflix which launched at the Telluride Film Festival. Its forthcoming feature doc “TINA,” the only feature documentary to be made with Tina Turner's full participation, was released theatrically around the world — and then on HBO and Sky — earlier this year. Lightbox has other projects in production with FX, National Geographic, Showtime, Netflix, HBO, Discovery, Amazon, Sky and the BBC.
Simon is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, sits on the BAFTA Film committee as an elected member, and is a trustee of the Grierson Trust.
About the Participants
JENNIFER LOWE-ANKER is the president and acting director of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation (ALCF), which she established in 1999 to advocate for indigenous mountain people around the globe. In 2008, Mountaineers Books published her “Forget Me Not: A Memoir,” chronicling her life with Alex Lowe and Conrad Anker in the mountains of the world. It won the National Outdoor Book Award for literature that year.
Lowe-Anker first made her mark as an artist after graduating with a B.A. from Montana State University in 1987. Her paintings have been shown in galleries around the West since 1990. Combining landscapes, animals and people of her native Montana, Lowe-Anker’s whimsical images showcase a passion for the wild that she advocates to protect.
Lowe-Anker was married to mountaineer Alex Lowe from 1982 until his death in 1999. She worked as an artist and was the primary caregiver for their three sons, Max, Sam and Isaac. She married Conrad Anker in 2001.
In 2004, in partnership with the ALCF and Anker, she founded the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) in Phortse, Nepal, to educate indigenous Sherpa and Nepali climbers. It has operated for over 15 years, training the majority of Nepali climbers now working on Everest. KCC moved into an earthquake-resistant facility in Phortse in 2019.
CONRAD ANKER has been pushing the limits of mountaineering for the last 30 years, evolving into one of the best alpinists from the U.S. The Bozeman, Montana, based father of three is one of the most prolific explorers and alpinists alive today. He is equally at home in Antarctica, the Himalayas, or on his home ice in Hyalite Canyon in southwestern Montana.
In 2011, Anker notched the long-awaited first ascent of the Meru Shark’s Fin in India, with partners Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk. This led to the Sundance-winning documentary “Meru.” He has climbed Everest three times, including a 2012 trip with National Geographic to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of the mountain. On his most famous Everest climb in 1999, Anker discovered the remains of George Mallory, one of the two British climbers who died attempting Everest in 1924, helping to shed more light on one of mountaineering’s most famous mysteries. In more than 25 years of expeditions to Nepal, Anker and his wife, Jennifer Lowe-Anker, have developed deep relationships with the Sherpa people of the Khumbu Valley of Nepal. The couple founded the Khumbu Climbing Center in Phortse, Nepal, which provides a variety of safety training courses to high-altitude workers.
Anker continues a deep appreciation for wild places passed on from his father and grandfather, who hailed from Big Oak Flat, California, just outside Yosemite National Park. Anker had climbed Mount Rainier by the time he was 16. He met his first climbing mentor, the iconic climber Mugs Stump, while studying at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and working in a mountaineering store. Anker, a part-time carpenter, and the late Alex Lowe — his climbing partner and best friend—went on to become climbing’s rock stars in the ’90s, setting speed records in the Himalayas and Antarctica.
Though true alpine routes have been his forte, Anker’s résumé also includes big-wall first ascents on El Capitan and first free ascents in Zion National Park. In 1997, alone, he completed first ascents in Antarctica, Pakistan’s Karakoram and on Yosemite’s El Capitan.
At home, Anker serves on the boards of Protect Our Winters, the American Himalayan Foundation and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation.
SAM LOWE-ANKER is an up-and-coming freelance filmmaker based in Bozeman, Montana. Born the middle child to Jennifer and Alex Lowe, he knew a life of adventure from an early age. When Alex passed away in an avalanche in 1999 and his friend and climbing partner Conrad Anker stepped in, Anker became the only father Sam would ever truly know.
Alongside his two brothers, Sam has continued a legacy set down by his parents to lead a life driven by passion and curiosity. He has also defined himself on his own terms, going on to graduate with honors from the film school at Montana State University and forge a creative image all his own.
Sam has mastered the media form of stop-motion animation, which he began tinkering with at a young age by making short films with digital cameras and Lego. In recent years, he has directed and produced content with entities such as Outside Online Vans, Finnleo hot tubs and Bridger Bowl Ski Resort, while also working as an assistant cameraman on commercial pieces for brands such as Ford, Facebook and Levi’s.
ISAAC LOWE-ANKER is a senior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Isaac was born and raised in Bozeman, Montana, where alongside his brothers he discovered a passion for adventure and creativity. The youngest of three sons raised by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, Conrad Anker and Alex Lowe, Isaac has grown up in the fold of his wanderlust family, traveling the globe and finding perspectives and insight seldom seen by a 23-year-old. Growing up with the intertwined stories of his family and Alex Lowe’s passing in 1999, Isaac has both continued their legacy and found a path all his own.
Even as Isaac has been pushing to complete his degree, he has also stepped into the role of a professional graphic designer working with brands such as The North Face, Quicksilver and United By Blue. He has provided graphic design and illustration for several documentary shorts, including “Depth Perception,” “Ode to Muir: The High Sierra” and “Sky Migrations.”
ANDREW MCLEAN specializes in steep skiing remote locations and is widely considered America’s greatest ski mountaineer living today, with first descents on all seven continents — places such as Baffin Island, Iran and Morocco. He is a veteran of 20 expeditions and hundreds of first descents. Powder magazine recently voted McLean “One of the Greatest Skiers of Our Time.” McLean currently lives in Park City, Utah, and spends his winters skiing the Wasatch daily.
DAVID GOETTLER has explored frozen summits everywhere from Pakistan to Patagonia, but his greatest passion is for the harsh and beautiful high-altitude terrain of 8,000-meter mountains. It is this feeling of being exposed and vulnerable on a mountain that makes Goettler feel most alive. He has already conquered five of the fourteen 8,000-meter peaks on Earth, reaching the summits of Gasherbrum II (8,035 m), Broad Peak (8,051 m), Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Lhotse (8,516 m) and Makalu (8,481 m), while also ascending to 8,200 m on K2 (8,611 m).
During an expedition to Shishapangma, the 8,000 m mountain in China, Goettler discovered Alex Lowe’s body exposed by the melting ice. He is a close friend and mentee of avalanche survivor Conrad Anker.
JIMMY CHIN is a professional climber, photographer and Academy Award®-winning film director. The American has organized and led numerous climbing, ski-mountaineering and exploratory expeditions to China, Pakistan, Nepal, Greenland, Tanzania, Chad, Mali, South Africa, Borneo, India and Argentina. His achievements include climbing and skiing Mount Everest from the summit, making first ascents of big walls and alpine towers in the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan and the Garhwal Himalayas of northern India, and crossing the Changtang Plateau in northwestern Tibet on foot.
BILL BELCOURT is a paraglider and hang glider living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a long-time friend of Alex Lowe and in 2016 joined the Lowe-Anker family on their trek in Shishapangma, China, to retrieve Alex’s body.
ALICE PHINNEY is a longtime friend of Jennifer Lowe-Anker, spending her formative years of climbing with Jennifer and Alex Lowe. She witnessed their love grow as well as Jennifer’s grieving process after losing Alex in 1999. They are still friends today.
MICHAEL BROWN is a veteran adventure filmmaker who has won more than 30 international film festival and industry awards. Brown was the filmmaker and cinematographer who captured footage of the 1999 Shishapangma expedition when an avalanche swept over Alex Lowe, David Bridges and Conrad Anker, leaving Anker as the sole survivor. Brown finished the film as a tribute to Lowe and Bridges.
Directed by Max Lowe
Written and Edited by Michael Harte
Produced by Chris Murphy, Max Lowe, Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn
Music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans
Executive Producers Carolyn Bernstein, Ryan Harrington, Bengt Anderson