Taylor Rees is one of the most exciting filmmakers around, making documentaries from forgotten volcanic archipelagos to red-hot reflections on the American civil war. Who is Taylor Rees and what other documentaries has she made that you must see?

Who is Taylor Rees?

Director. Adventurer. Photographer. Environmental documentary filmmaker. The list goes on, but this description gives you an idea of her versatility and talent.

Taylor Rees’ work focuses on environmental and humanitarian issues, exploring stories beneath the surface with insatiable curiosity, deepening public understanding of natural resource conflicts, climate change and human rights. Her middle name is Freesolo: No moniker but a lasting reminder of her parents’ love of free climbing.

Where did Taylor Rees start making films?

Her career dates back to a Masters’s degree from Yale in environmental management and anthropology. This is the foundation for her stories, giving them a rigorous scientific and social justice approach.

Taylor Rees’ filmmaking style

Stylistically, Taylor’s work uses the power of landscape – skies, mountain ranges and large expanses. She also looks at a landscape’s story – the intricacies of its beauty, connection and how life interacts within different places. For storytellers out there, her TED talk is a must.

Taylor Rees said in a recent interview with culture and adventure journalist Simon Schreyer, “The love of what’s beautiful to me is deeply personal and it gives me a lot of intention, desire and drive to find aspects of beauty within a human life, or in a landscape, or in a way to incorporate that beauty in my own life. It’s like an indescribable phenomenon, that we don’t even know how to talk about rationally.”

Taylor Rees films

Down To Nothing (2015)

Her first film Down To Nothing follows a five-person team who set out on an ambitious trek to find out whether Burmese peak Hkakabo Razi is really Southeast Asia’s highest point.

Life Coach (2017)

Alaska’s Ruth Glacier is a climber’s dream. When director Taylor Rees and climbers Renan Ozturk and Alex Honnold choose a specific route to the top, unfortunately – or perhaps, fortunately – the weather puts a swift stop to their expectations. What follows is remarkable.

Watch Taylor Rees’ film Life Coach

Mentors: Hilaree Nelson (2018)

Is there room for glamour in the testosterone-filled world of ski mountaineering? Taylor and her team ask big questions as they follow ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson in a stunning depiction of masculinity and femininity in sport.

Watch Taylor Rees’ film Mentors: Hilaree Nelson

Ashes To Ashes (2019)

Both Black history and US history, Ashes to Ashes is one of Taylor Rees’ more poignant and at times horrific explorations of humanity. She follows Winfred Rembert, an artist and rare survivor of a Jim Crow-era attempted lynching, as he explains a dark past.

From Kurils With Love (2020)

When the guardian of an almost unreachable archipelago in the Far East of Russia hitched a ride with Taylor and her team, no one expected the result. From Kurils With Love’s team includes Rees’ spouse and fellow filmmaker Renan Ozturk. They set out to make a classic adventure story but what they got was something far more powerful.

The Ghosts Above (2020)

Taylor’s most recent work is set on Mount Everest and narrated by Renan Ozturk. The big question: Who was the first to reach the summit? Rees directs this gripping and sometimes strained look at the history of Everest expeditions, the fraught relationship between indigenous guides and the commercialization of a sacred mountain.

What will Taylor Rees do next?

If her previous work is anything to go by, the future is bright. To make sure you don’t miss her next project, keep up to date with Taylor’s adventures on her Instagram or the Taylor Freesolo Rees website.

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