AtSwim Director Alberto Accettulli was tasked with taking his crew to the top of the world to chronicle oxygen-starved cyclists traversing the Himalayas in a short film for Czech car maker SKODA, part of the Volkswagen family. The resulting five-minute social media film will air before and during the holidays, while a 27-minute film titled CATCHING BREATH will tour film festivals worldwide in 2018.

From two wheels to four wheels, SKODA started in 1895 building bicycles. Honoring that heritage, SKODA has for years sponsored cycling events as part of its WE LOVE CYCLING branding intiative. For this project, SKODA brought together some of the best cyclists in the world to pedal up Khardung La Pass, a picturesque yet treacherous road in a mountain pass between Jammu and Kashmir. The short film and doc directed by Accettulli chronicles both spectacular scenery but also the record-breaking attempt of 37-year old Tour de France veteran rider Bartosz Huzarski. The entire project took almost the entire year and involved more than 100 crew members, with production support from Milk and Honey Films.

‘Catching Breath’
“It was a remarkable opportunity to chronicle a record breaking attempt, seeing the cyclists struggle through both winter snow and lack of oxygen up the pass,” says Accettulli, “The bonus is spectacular scenery, breathtaking views and just capturing the perseverance of everyone involved. Supporting the ride were some super tough SKODAs.” In both films, four world class cyclist make an assault on the Himalayan mountainside. The latest SKODA Karoq SUV kept the riders on a world record pace. Time to beat: 3 hours, 4 minutes and 6 seconds. The weather at the start was fair but deteriorated quickly. One of the racers was very fatigued at the outset, having recently completed ten ironman events in ten days. Halfway through the race, heavy snow hit. The racers were rapidly losing both body heat and oxygen. After riding 38 kilometers up the mountain, through chilling snow, Huzarski set a new record at 2 hours, 36 minutes and 16 seconds.

Challenge to Film Crew
With less than half the usual oxygen available, the production was very demanding on the film crew. “There were a lot of risks and pitfalls to this shoot,” says Accettulli. “We all needed one another, but we received tremendous confidence, support and cooperation from the folks at SKODA. They were incredibly professional, keeping in great spirits about the project from beginning to end.”

"The tremendous confidence and cooperation of the client reflected in the result. The professionalism of the team and the great mood that accompanied the project carried throught to the end,” added Producer Monika Soukup.

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