Film

Talking to Emmy-winning director Jake Scott: his new doc “Kipchoge: The Last Milestone” follows record breaking marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge

Kipchoge: The Last Milestone is a new uplifting documentary by American Woman director Jake Scott produced the Ridley Scott, it follows Kenyan world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge as he prepared to break one of the last milestones in sporting history: finishing a marathon in under two hours. On October 12, 2019, Kipchoge became a record-breaker when he ran the 42-km Vienna City Marathon in just under two hours which was thought at one time to be physically impossible. #Kipchoge acknowledges the team effort as Scott puts his dedication and willpower under the microscope to reveal a man of great mental and physical ability driven by his believe in the human spirit and humanity. “I am not just running a race Kipchoge says, I am doing this for humanity”. Scott’s Kipchoge: The Last Milestone is a documentary of minds taking you inside a world that produced this record-breaking African athlete, to his trainers, teammates and scientists that helped him exceed and succeed. Definitely a documentary for Kipchoge fans, lovers of good human stories and anyone who wants to be reminded of how to be motivated: you can do anything!!!. 

Scott is an Emmy-winning and Grammy nominated director. A partner in the Ridley Scott Creative Group, he is an owner of RSA Films and a founder of music video production company Black Dog Films. Works include “Runaway Train 25,” a moving, beautifully filmed music video which rein

ALT caught up with Scott to talk about Kipchoge: The Last Milestone which you can catch now on demand on VOD. More here: https://www.kipchogemovie.com/

ALT: Congratulations. It is a very uplifting documentary; I wasn’t really expecting anything specific but for me it was very philosophical, and it could have almost been about Kipchoge the motivational speaker from that perspective. So, what made you want to focus on Kipchoge as the subject matter?

Jake Scott: Well, it found me really. First of all, the short answer is it found me. I wasn’t looking for anything, I’ve never made a documentary before, and I’ve never been all that interested in long distance running, you watch the Olympics, it’s interesting when it comes around in the Olympics and  I am not an avid follower of that. So, I was asked along to a meeting, they reached out to us the film company to find out what it would take and what it would cost to do a documentary, like a feature documentary as we made.

And in the meeting, I sort of pricked my ears, hearing about Kipchoge and his achievements and what he was trying to do was just already immediately fascinating and then as I got into it, I realized that this was more than just about beating the clock. And as you say, it was a philosophical investigation, exploration, and story to be told, about this remarkable human being who is doing this in transcendence of the sport. It’s a human thing, it is the pursuit of what we  limit in ourselves and he’s trying to inspire this idea that, in anything we try and anything that we endeavour to do or change, by any change or new direction we take in life, it’s possible we can do it. And I think he means it,  he’s in earnest and he’s obviously a remarkable man.

ALT: In saying that and discovering that aspect of the story, what did you most want to convey to audiences?

Jake Scott: The truth in the message, no human is limited. I was really drawn to his humility, and I was really struck by that, in this age that we live in, you have to go back a year or two, we had Trump and all these big personalities and a lot of opinion. People in the public sphere, they talk a lot, and athletes too, there’s the big personalities. So, this guy is really unusual, and I was really drawn to this humility, and I wondered where, I don’t know that I ever really completely found out, but I wanted to drive into that and understand how humility informs and may aid his athletic ability.

And I think there’s something about that. I think there’s something in the focus and thinking about the presence of mind and being, and almost a state of meditation that he seems to exist in. So, I was really drawn to that and what I was hoping to do in the documentary was to get across, an understanding of this human being and yes!  What he represents, yes! What he achieves and how they got there, but also understand where he came from, his mother who was obviously a taskmaster and very strict and pushed him, understanding that, really get across this idea that you don’t always have to be noisy. You don’t have to say a lot. You  could be quiet, you can be discerning. There’s a great power in his quiet attitude, I think.

ALT: It an interesting take on winning a  race.  Let’s talk about the takes on the technical side like the camera, where you’ve got like the camera, panning up through the trees and the closeups. Tell us a bit about some of those techniques lights as well. When you use black and white throughout the documentary, , then you’ve got some strong close ups, how you use the sun, the technical side.

Jake Scott: When you are trying to make something. we shot over quite a long period of time first of all and obviously there was the race itself, and then there was Kenya. To some extent, we didn’t have much control over the environment we were shooting interviews in. So, some, of them were just hotel lobbies, or a really boring room, where there’s nowhere to really look. So, I think in terms of the environment and the world of Kenya, it’s all there for you. I mean, it’s just incredibly rich, visually, he’s an amazing subject and I was inching my way in, through the interviews, like trying to get closer and closer and closer and I finally got in there because I wanted to be respectful and you know, like push it a little bit, trying to get closer and closer and closer because I felt that in there, that’s where it was, without being too invasive. So, I think that’s probably why that happened.

The poetry of it was important to me. So, you ask about the trees and the black and white. The black and white was a way of going into his mind’s eye, it was to separate from what you were seeing around it, so we were going into some of the history, some of his past, some of his country’s past, colonialism. So, I felt that it was important to differentiate that visually and also documentaries aren’t necessarily always shot that cinematically partly because of budget and partly because of accessibility and logistics. We were able to do that, and I wanted to make it, I wanted to give it a scale.

I felt that it was a human story. I knew after all the Capital Gap Highlands, the Ridge line that looks down into the rift valley, the entire human races past the crucible with life. We’re all related because we come from there, you know, it’s amazing. And that’s an amazing place if you’ve never been, I urge you to go. I almost feel like every human being, if they have the opportunity to try Kenya and go to Tanzania, the rift valley and go to the  Masai Mara but no, I sort of go with instinct a lot of the time, a lot of that’s driven by instinct. The race itself, I was limited in the angles I could choose, I just fought for this profile angle where you could really see him, and you could get him to speak. I could get close, cause obviously Eliud expresses very little when he’s in race, except when he’s crossing the line. And so, it’s very hard to gauge and read his emotional state, but I do think he goes into a zone in which he’s almost like a meditative state.

ALT: Why did you think it was important to include the colonial past element to the story?

Jake Scott: Because it’s part of the Kenyan history and the British have a lot to answer for down there and the tradition of excellence that Victor TUMO, that was one of the Kenyen pacemakers, one of the runners that was in the camp, he speaks of a tradition of excellence, or a storm of conditions, as well as the other thing he said, he said two things were really beautiful, but I think in the Kenyan history, colonialism it drives the identity of culture and I think it’s very complex. You go back to the sixties, running came out of the Commonwealth training camps and clearly the British saw a specific athleticism in Kenya and in Ethiopian and Somalian runners.

So, I wonder if there hasn’t been some exploitation, I think that even today, there’s some exploitation going on in some of those camps, not in Eliud’s camp, I think they’re very principled about that, but I think there is some exploitation going on you know? I felt that it is 20th century history. I felt that the Kenyan understanding the context that their first gold metals were being won, right? Kip Keino, were coming out of that colonial period and emergence from it and their independence. So, it seemed, and I think that was something to mention for a viewer who may know nothing about Kenya or Kenyan history.

ALT: One last question what did you take from this documentary?

Jake Scott: The two things I took from this documentary would be, self-belief, two words, you know, self-belief because it’s for the children, this is where we ended up the children, you know, that river of children, they’re the future and individually, if they have the inspiration to believe in themselves, then we got a good future.  And I think that’s what he’s really trying to inspire; is that, believe in yourself, believe you can, believe that it’s possible, that you are capable, that you can exceed. And I think his principle, he says, “I live a simple life and I’ve been living a discipline life”. There’s very little noise in Eliud’s life, which is what I think allows him and gives him the space to do what he does.

But it’s bloody hard work, you know why Kenyans are so good?  Winning gold medals because they train really bloody hard, that’s what it is. I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s like, wow! You know, the lifestyle, whether in their training, they leave their homes and they go away for months, to train in the camp and it’s almost military in that sense or in some ways I liken it to being in a monastery. But the rigors of training and the discipline that they’re in is what I think gives them such a dominance.

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