Netflix’s Broad Peak: Is the Movie Based on an Actual Mountaineer?

Directed by Leszek Dawid, Netflix’s ‘Broad Peak’ is a Polish movie about the journey of mountain climber Maciej Berbeka. The adventure drama follows Maciej as he ventures on a conquest of the titular peak in the Karakoram, years after narrowly failing to complete the journey. As the narrative progresses, viewers learn the challenges he faces during his trips to the summit.

The movie is grounded in reality through its depiction of mountain climbing, making viewers wonder whether Maciej’s journey is inspired by a true story. So, if you want to learn more about the inspiration behind ‘Broad Peak,’ here is everything you need to know!

The 1988 Broad Peak Climb: Inspiration Behind the Film

Yes, ‘Broad Peak’ is based on a true story. The movie depicts the life of Maciej Berbeka, a Polish mountaineer and mountain guide. Screenwriter Lukasz Ludkowski penned the screenplay inspired by Berbeka’s journey and his experiences atop Broad Peak. It is located in the Karakoram on the border of Pakistan and China and is the twelfth-highest mountain in the world, at 8,051 meters (26,414 ft) above sea level.

Berbeka was born on October 17, 1954, in Zakopane, Poland. While not much is known about his early life, he had established himself as one of the leading mountain climbers in the country during the 80s. Berbeka was a member of Union Internationale des Associations de Guides de Montagnes (UIAGM) and Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue (TOPR). Moreover, he was a member of “Ice Warriors,” a group of leading mountaineers from Poland known for their winter ascents.

Berbeka’s accomplishments include successful expeditions of Manaslu (in the Nepalese Himalayas), Cho Oyu (in the Himalayas), Annapurna (in the Gandaki Province of Nepal), and Mount Everest (in the Himalayas). In March 1988, the mountaineer climbed Broad Peak, but after over two days of climbing, he returned to the base camp, falling nearly 17 meters short of the summit. Almost 25 years later, in 2013, he decided to do the climb again. Berbeka accompanies with Adam Bielecki, Tomasz Kowalski, and Artur Małek.

On March 6, 2013, though the group reached the mountain’s peak, Berbeka and Kowalski were reported missing during the descent after they failed to make it to Camp 4. The base camp sent a rescue team after the duo could not contact the climbers. Krzysztof Wielicki, leader of the winter expedition of the Polish Mountaineering Association, stated that Berbeka and Kowalski were dead after no contact was made with the climbers for over two days.

Maciej Berbeka // Image Credit: Polskie Himalaje/YouTube

The Netflix movie captures Berbeka’s life from his first ascent of Broad Peak until his eventual death. In an interview with Screen Daily, producer Maciej Rzączyński explained the film’s conceptualization based on the real-life mountain climbing legend’s life. He revealed that the idea came to him after he read author Jacek Hugo-Bader’s book ‘A Long Film About Love: Return To Broad Peak.’ It was published in 2014 and details the events leading up to Berbeka’s death atop Broad Peak.

“There was a big social conversation in Poland at the time about what happened there, and everyone seemed to have an opinion about what the mountaineers had been doing,” Rzączyński said. “I felt that the passion to want to climb up to the summit of these mountains was so strong that we should make a feature film about it and realized that this would be the first Polish feature about mountaineering because there hadn’t been any before,” the producer added. Thus, the studio approached Berbeka’s family, and production commenced after they approved the project.

From Rzączyński’s words, it is evident that the desire to tell real-life events and highlight the essence of mountaineering lay at the core of the biographical movie. Hence, viewers can connect with Berbeka’s journey and his passion for mountain climbing. While the film mostly sticks to facts, it is a dramatized retelling of the Polish mountaineer’s life and his tragic demise at the end of his journey. All things said, ‘Broad Peak’ is a fictionalized portrayal of a riveting yet lesser-known true story of Berbeka’s passion and resilience.

Read More: Where Was Netflix’s Broad Peak Filmed?