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New Bannister Documentary

New Bannister Documentary
Jesse Squire

In advance of this May’s 60th anniversary of the first sub-4:00 mile, a new documentary about the race is in the works. Tentatively titled Bannister: Everest on the Track, the KIMbia Athletics creative team of Tom Ratcliffe and Jeremy Mosher seek to both produce the definitive historical document of the race and to bring new thoughts and new details to a story that’s, well, nearly 60 years old.

The title refers to the difficulty of running a mile in under 4 minutes, and to the fact that Bannister drew inspiration from the first successful ascent of Everest, which was accomplished less than a year before the first sub-4. To date more feet have stood on the top of the world’s tallest mountain than have run a sub-4:00 mile.

The film is all in the can and now is the time for post-production. KIMbia is unveiling a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to make the final edit as good as the story deserves. Watch the teaser below, go to the website, and like it on Facebook.

Ratcliffe and Mosher are an accomplished team. Amongst their past video projects have been chasingKIMBIA, Wisconsin to Worlds, Delilah, and The British Miler. They used archival footage and photos, of course, but nearly all of the film is new. They interviewed a tremendous number of people, some of whom have never before been on film, and they recreated parts of the race–not an easy task given the difficulty of finding cinder tracks these days.

They also set the stage for the race by looking back into the years long before the race. What made Roger Bannister the high achiever capable of finally doing something that people had been trying to do for more than half a century? They looked at his childhood and his upbringing during England’s dark days of World War II, and the postwar years that in many ways were even more difficult for Britain. “The only thing worse than losing a war,” said Bannister, “is winning one”.

Ratcliffe and Mosher talked with Dr. Bannister, of course, but many others as well. They were able to speak to Chris Chataway, one of Bannister’s pacers on that day, before he passed away this year. The other pacer, Chris Brasher, is no longer with us but they (briefly) talked to his son, Hugh. They spoke to his rival in the 4-minute chase, Australian John Landy, and they spoke to other British runners like Lord Seb Coe, Steve Cram, Tom Bedford, Dave Moorcroft, and Bruce Tulloch, all of whom were inspired by Bannister’s legendary accomplishments.

They also managed to interview two men who brought a new perspective, men who have rarely if ever been asked about that day. One was an American runner named George Dole, who saw the race from the back (he finished fifth of the six runners). Another was an Oxford student, Geoffrey Weston, who saw the race from the stands.

From the Kickstarter page:

It appeared to be the twilight of Britain’s influence in the world. London bore scars from World War II bombing, while morale across the country remained low with wartime rationing still in place.

Then, in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II took the throne to great fanfare after an expansive world tour. One year later, Sir Edmund Hilary conquered Everest. Suddenly, the United Kingdom seemed on the verge of a new Elizabethan golden age. Against this backdrop, Oxford medical student Roger Bannister made plans to become the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. The four minute mile had become mythical, something many pundits had assumed to be physically impossible — but those doubters hadn’t counted on an exceptional young man who had grown up amid the challenges of World War II… a young man with a keen scientific mind and a fierce independent streak… a young man flanked by a team of inspired friends and a bold coach.

On the 60th anniversary of the feat named “the greatest sporting achievement of the 20th Century” by Forbes and Sports Illustrated magazines, our documentary, BANNISTER: EVEREST ON THE TRACK, explores this auspicious moment in history. To date, fewer people have run a sub-4:00 mile than have climbed the world’s highest peak, and Bannister led the way into a new era in stratospheric athletic achievement… at a time when his country needed it most.

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a crowdfunding platform for creative projects such as this one. You make a pledge–in this case, anywhere from $3 to $1000 with many gradations in between–with tangible rewards for your pledge. This film’s goal is $12,500 by April 14 and pledge rewards are available on its Kickstarter page. Remember, the project only takes off if the goal is met–and the clock is ticking.

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