Sherpa

Sherpa

(2015)

Trouble on Everest.

In 2013 a group of Western climbers and angry Sherpas allegedly got into a confrontation that made global headlines. This documentary explores the unequal relationship between cashed-up foreign expeditions and their guides, plus local tradition, as exemplified by Phurba Tashi Sherpa, an experienced climber.... More

Director Jennifer Peedom and her team set out to uncover the cause of this altercation, intending to film the 2014 climbing season from the Sherpas' point of view. Instead, they captured Everest's greatest tragedy, when a huge block of ice crashed down onto the climbing route, killing 16 Sherpas. For the Himalayan workers repeatedly traversing the mountain carrying supplies, the risk of this hazardous endeavor is multiplied.Hide

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Flicks Review

If being at the right place at the right time can make or break a particular breed of documentary, the odds of coming away with the goods have got to be better atop Mt Everest than damn near anywhere else. In the case of Sherpa, with its focus on the Himalayan people who shlep expeditions’ gear up the mountain and are reliant on the income this provides, this setting can only aid a film that likely would have proved revealing even without the drama that the peak provides.... More

The Sherpa people are typically in the background, if at all, in films about Everest such as re-enactment of Sir Edmund Hillary’s feats Beyond the Edge or Everest, Hollywood’s take on Rob Hall’s tragic demise. To see the home and family one Sherpa leaves behind lends valuable context to the risks taken on foreign climbers’ behalf, before the film joins him on a commercial expedition, one that sees tragedy and simmering tensions combine.

Director Jennifer Peedom has shot several previous Everest projects, and this experience aids both the film’s raw footage and the relationships drawn upon. If you’re in the mood for mountainous intrigue that’s not The Eiger Sanction, you could do worse than this, especially if over-familiar with globe-trotting Westerners indulging an appetite for thrills. Fear not, though, Sherpa has little desire in hammering any particular message home, beyond offering a window into a seldom-seen culture.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

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BY cinemusefilm superstar

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... More belongs to 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 create 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.Hide


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The Press Reviews

97% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Stunningly photographed and brilliantly sly... it’s also a heartfelt tribute to the resilience of a people. Full Review

  • Jennifer Peedom's film pulls no punches in exploring the culture and work of this unheralded group, as well as their frequent exploitation by Westerners. Full Review

  • A documentary whose visual magnificence is more than matched by unforgettable characters and political urgency. Full Review

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