RTF student to create documentary following amputee mountain climbers

Lauren Zimmer

Mitchell Schwartz admits he loves helping people, but he never expected to do so at 19,000 feet in the air. Schwartz, a radio-television-film junior, is creating a documentary following the Cloud Walkers, a group of 13 amputees who are currently in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa.

Schwartz, along with five other filmmakers, two physical therapists and one prosthetist are planning to climb the mountain next winter while filming for the feature-length documentary film. 

Although Schwartz works on many narrative productions, including TSTV’s new sketch comedy show “bUrnT,” he hadn’t imagined working on a documentary until he got the opportunity to make this independent feature.  

“I never hated documentaries,” Schwartz said. “I had never made a movie before, and it just seemed a little intense. It was absolutely random, but it was too interesting not to be part of.” 

Mona Patel, the leader of the Mount Kilimanjaro trip and amputee from San Antonio, wanted someone to document the Cloud Walkers’ journey for a reasonable price. Patel knew Schwartz through family connections and reached out to him over the summer.  

According to Patel, the Cloud Walkers is a diverse group. 

“Our motto is, ‘For those willing to overcome, we will show the world you can walk among the clouds,’” Patel said.

Schwartz and the other filmmakers will document the amputees’ training throughout the next year. Some amputees have lost limbs because of cancer and others because of diabetes or drunken driving accidents. Schwartz said a 13-year-old boy named Caden stood out to him.

“He lost a leg in an ATV accident and still wants to play football,” Schwartz said. “He was already walking two weeks after the accident, and I just filmed his football game. The stories of these people are incredible. I can’t wait to get to know them better.”

The stories that people share during interviews are Schwartz’s favorite parts of the documentary. 

“The most important thing you can spread to the world is the truth,” Schwartz said. “Documentaries explain the truth of the real world.”

Once filming is completed, Schwartz said the movie will premiere in different film festivals. When the movie is screened, he hopes people will understand that disabilities do not represent a person’s potential.

“We have this situation where 13 amputees are overcoming this stereotype,” Schwartz said. “I just want people to cry with happiness.”

Schwartz does not have much free time, but he said he enjoys working on several projects at once.  

“I guess one day I realized it is easy to do what you want, and I feel like a lot of people make the excuse that creating their own thing is hard,” Schwartz said. “It does take a lot of time, but it drives me. I’m making stuff I love and am proud of it. It makes it worth it at the end of the day.”