A fight on Everest? It seemed incredible. But in 2013 news channels around the world reported an ugly brawl at 6400 m (21,000 ft) as European climbers fled a mob of angry Sherpas. In 1953, ...
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A fight on Everest? It seemed incredible. But in 2013 news channels around the world reported an ugly brawl at 6400 m (21,000 ft) as European climbers fled a mob of angry Sherpas. In 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had reached the summit in a spirit of co-operation and brave optimism. Now climbers and Sherpas were trading insults - even blows. What had happened to the happy, smiling Sherpas and their dedication in getting foreigners to the top of the mountain they hold so sacred? Determined to explore what was going on, the filmmakers set out to make a film of the 2014 Everest climbing season, from the Sherpas' point of view. Instead, they captured a tragedy that would change Everest forever. At 6.45am on 18th April, 2014, a 14,000 ton block of ice crashed down onto the climbing route through the Khumbu Icefall, killing 16 Sherpas. It was the worst tragedy in the history of Everest. The disaster provoked a drastic reappraisal about the role of the Sherpas ...
Much was shot handheld, and Freefly Systems also lent the production a MoVI lightweight stabilization rig that was used in conjunction with the Red Epic for some sweeping shots. Also some aerials from a helicopter were shot 'hanging out an open door'. See more »
Beautifully filmed story about Sherpa life and their struggle for recognition.
Everyone knows that documentaries tell the truth. Well, at least somebody's version of the truth. On the one hand there are participative documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) starring its interventionist director Michael Moore, and on the other hand there are observational documentaries like Sherpa (2015) where the camera is the chief story-teller. Unlike movies, the doco aims for a higher social purpose and in Sherpa it is to show the world how the real glory of climbing Mount Everest belongs an exploited ethnic group in the mountains of Nepal. As historical gatekeepers for the Himalayas, their existence has depended on risking their lives so that Westerners and others can experience what it feels like "to conquer Everest".
Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom starts out asking why the traditionally friendly Sherpa guides turned aggressive towards tourists in the 2013 climbing season. The widely reported brawl was triggered by a single swear word directed at a Sherpa, igniting tensions that were simmering since Hillary was Knighted for his 1953 ascent while Sherpa Tenzing received lesser credit. In the middle of filming the brawl story, a massive avalanche claimed 16 Sherpa lives. Suddenly it is about the politics of an ethnic group demanding respect, no longer prepared to risk lives for meagre wages from an industry hosting thousands of tourists each year and charging summit climbers $75,000 – $100,000 for the privilege. The camera becomes a witness to tragedy, then grief that turns to anger and political activism. Audiences become judge in a case involving ethnic discrimination and the commercial exploitation of people who have been used as cheap mules. It's a complex dilemma with no easy solutions because the same commercial interests have done much to improve the lives of Sherpas.
The film shows political sensitivity in telling the story from the Sherpa viewpoint. Its great strengths lie in extraordinary cinematography and sound recording under the most chaotic high-altitude conditions a filmmaker can ever experience. The camera works skilfully across the visual pleasures of vast mountain-scapes to angry grief stricken Sherpa faces and frustrated tourist climbers, with a soundtrack of howling wind, crunching ice and hammering stakes that viscerally creates a 'being there' feel. Peedom lets the story tell itself without manipulative editing, and it is highly engaging while being informative about a world that few of us will enter. It is beautifully filmed and teaches much about Sherpa life and their struggle for recognition.
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