Raw peak at tragedy
SHERPA ( M)
Director: Jennifer Peedom ( Solitary Endeavour on the Southern Ocean) Starring: Phurba Tashi Sherpa, Russell Brice, Karma Doma Sherpa, Ed Douglas Verdict: The downside of moving up in the world HERE is how life goes down so high in the sky. This sobering, revealing and appreciably raw documentary presents a very different picture of what happens up on Mt Everest during peak climbing periods.
Filmmaker Jennifer Peedom happened to be there on the spot in April 2014 when an avalanche claimed the lives of 16 Sherpa guides.
It is the tragic incident’s impact on the Sherpa people – the Nepalese indigenous group whose mastery of the mountain’s many dangers is intricately entwined with their family values and spiritual beliefs – that is Peedom’s principal focus here.
As the Everest expedition business has surged in the modern era, the Sherpas who keep the whole thing going have been tragically taken for granted.
Though dependent on commercial tour companies for their livelihood, the price they are ultimately paying for the relationship is coming at the expense of a precious ancient culture.
And all too often, their own lives.
For a documentary shot essentially in reaction to a chain of unpredictable events occurring around Peedom and her small crew, Sherpa achieves a remarkably coherent and nuanced coverage of a complex situation.
As the initial shock of the avalanche deaths subsides, the Sherpas take an unprecedented stand against their foreign employers.
Calling a flash strike, the 300- strong Sherpa contingent demands the complete cancellation of the 2014 climbing season. Quite rightly, they don’t want to be clambering over the unrecovered bodies of their late colleagues for months to come, just so that a company can meet its obligations to cashed- up clients.
Demands are also issued for better pay and safety conditions, which seem perfectly reasonable given the reward- to- risk ratio for the average Sherpa is almost insultingly low.
However, the attitude of the expedition companies – known to charge up to $ 100,000 per customer – towards the Sherpas is not exactly supportive. In fact, at times, there is an indignant streak to the stance of the tour bosses that borders on racist.
An Australian- made work destined to change many minds around the world about the Everest experience.