Jennifer Peedom

ACO 2024: Meet filmmaker Jennifer Peedom

Get to know the filmmaker and director behind the ACO's River and Mountain, and Netflix phenomenon, Sherpa.

Jennifer Peedom is a BAFTA-nominated filmmaker and director.

Born in Canberra, Peedom studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She worked in corporate roles, including as a commodities trader, before taking an unconventional route into documentary filmmaking.

Race Around Oz

She was one of six people who appeared on the ABC TV show Race Around Oz, tasked with travelling across the country on their own, armed with just a small digital video camera to record candid and innovative portraits of life in Australia.

That was in 2000. Nine years later she scooped the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Documentary in Under One Hour for her documentary, Solo, which was co-directed with David Michôd, and which told the story of Australian adventurer Andrew McAuley who attempted a solo kayak crossing from Tasmania to New Zealand – a crossing that claimed his life and led to his disappearance still today.

Peedom worked on Discovery Channel series Everest: Beyond the Limit, and on Miracle on Everest for the ABC and National Geographic.

She soon earned a reputation for her love of creating gripping and empathetic portraits of people in awe-inspiring natural environments and extreme conditions.


Drawn to human endeavour in extreme conditions

Peedom was filming Mount Everest’s Sherpa community in 2014, when a terrible avalanche that year tragically killed 16 Sherpa climbers. The events were captured in Peedom’s Netflix film, Sherpa, which was nominated for a BAFTA award in 2016.

In 2017, she returned to icy peaks to direct Mountain in collaboration with Richard Tognetti and the ACO. The epic cinematic and musical collaboration paints vividly through film and music humankind’s obsession with mountains: climbing them, and taking risks in high altitudes – often at the highest cost.

“I grew up in Canberra and we used to go down to the mountains, most holidays were bushwalking, camping, cross-country skiing, that kind of thing, so I guess I had an openness to it,” Jennifer told Adventure Handbook in an interview. “In my 20’s I was living in Bondi with a bunch of New Zealanders who got me working on some of their adventure races as a camera operator, and a lot of them, being New Zealanders, were also mountaineers and I had the opportunity to go and trek in Nepal with one of them while they pre-acclimatised for an Everest expedition.

“I still remember landing up there in Lukla and walking through those mountains and just kind of feeling my soul expand. It was something that really hit me from day one, it just somehow felt like the most natural place for me to be. I get asthma from dust and things, but when I’m in the mountains I feel at my physical best. On that trip I found out that I can acclimatise more easily than some at altitude, which is a genetic lottery.”



Peedom and the ACO’s collaboration continued with River, which was set to tour in 2021 before being cancelled because of Covid. Joseph Nizeti is co-director of the film, and it features actor Willem Dafoe narrating writer Robert Macfarlane's words.

River explores how the world’s waterways have shaped human existence, and how human industrial activities have changed them, with extreme consequences to the planet. The film had a cinema release in 2022, and was premiered in the concert hall in the same year. The live show’s full tour can finally take place in 2024.


Stranger Than Fiction

Jennifer Peedom’s film production company is Stranger Than Fiction, and it’s responsible for the films above, as well as Celeste Barber-fronted docu-series, The Way We Wore, and a feature documentary about the role of fungus in human survival, narrated by Björk, among others.

With the company, she’s embarking on a new narrative feature film, telling the true story of the true story of Tenzing Norgay, the legendary Napaliese-Indian Sherpa mountaineer. And she’s collaborating with Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, for the compelling Netflix release.



Peedom lives in Sydney with her husband who is a photographer, her children and a dog named River. In an interview, she told Broadsheet that her favourite things about living in the Australian city are “the cliff walks and access to nature”, and the Sydney Film Festival.

She has a soft spot for Spanish tapas, dinner at Bondi Icebergs Ding Room and the charming Randwick Ritz cinema.

Jennifer Peedom collaborated with Richard Tognetti and the ACO for River, touring nationally from 1 to 16 Feb 2024. Click here to find out more and buy tickets.