Smith­so­nian doc­u­men­tary cap­tures earth­quake in Nepal

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY DAVID BAUDER

It’s now a given that most ev­ery nat­u­ral dis­as­ter, even in a lo­ca­tion as re­mote as Nepal, will be cap­tured by grip­ping am­a­teur video. The chal­lenge for the Smith­so­nian Chan­nel was tak­ing this ma­te­rial and mak­ing it mean some­thing more.

The net­work’s one-hour spe­cial, “Nepal Quake: Ter­ror on Ever­est,” airs Mon­day at 9 p.m. ET.

More than 8,700 peo­ple were killed and thou­sands more in­jured in the April 25 earth­quake and a May 12 af­ter­shock.

Find­ing video ev­i­dence of the dis­as­ter wasn’t hard. Two Nepalese teenagers were record­ing ma­te­rial for their YouTube chan­nel on a Kathmandu street when the earth­quake struck, and they turned their cam­era around to cap­ture build­ings top­pling, birds fly­ing fran­ti­cally and peo­ple try­ing hard to stay on their feet with the ground con­vuls­ing be­neath them.

Video taken from a Mount Ever­est base camp showed a wall of crushed ice and snow rush­ing to­ward hik­ers, even­tu­ally killing 19 of them. Since then, that clip has been viewed some 25 mil­lion times, said David Royle, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of pro­gram­ming and pro­duc­tion at the Smith­so­nian Chan­nel.

“That is how peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enced this story in many ways,” Royle said. “What was im­por­tant to us is that no­body has seen the full story. What we were able to do is tell the fuller story.”

That was be­cause there were hardly any mo­ments when some­body didn’t have a mo­bile phone out with the video but­ton pushed. Doc­u­men­tary mak­ers ac­quired video from a hiker who kept the cam­era run­ning as he rushed into a tent and crouched un­der a ta­ble when the wall of ice hit, then emerged to see the chaotic af­ter­math. Hik­ers tried to help one man keep warm when he was caught with­out a coat.

Through the video and eye­wit- ness ac­counts, the doc­u­men­tary tells sto­ries of how hik­ers were air­lifted off the moun­tain, in­clud­ing one Amer­i­can who nearly died be­cause of fluid in his lungs caused by high altitude.

Be­sides the Ever­est story, which dom­i­nates about half of this doc­u­men­tary, film­mak­ers found two women whose lives were saved be­cause they hap­pened to hike out of a vil­lage in the Lang­tang Val­ley hours be­fore it was flat­tened by a land­slide. There’s dra­matic footage of land­slides caused by earth­quakes in the moun­tains sur­round­ing the val­ley, send­ing boul­ders tum­bling to the ground be­low.

Be­sides the per­sonal sto­ries, film­mak­ers tried to es­tab­lish the science be­hind what hap­pened, ex­plain­ing that about 200 years’ worth of what is nor­mally grad­ual move­ment be­tween two ge­o­logic plates was un­leashed at the mo­ment of the quake. Mount Ever­est, the world’s tallest moun­tain, shrank by an inch. Sci­en­tists can’t pre­dict earth­quakes, but they can fore­cast ar­eas where they are likely to oc­cur, and this was the case here, the doc­u­men­tary said.

“Ob­vi­ously, this is one of the im­por­tant sto­ries of the year,” Royle said. “We felt we could pro­vide con­text and nu­ance and greater un­der­stand­ing.”

Net­work ex­ec­u­tives also wanted to keep the story in the public’s mind be­cause the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion is in­volved in try­ing to pre­serve some of the his­tor­i­cal build­ings and ar­ti­facts dam­aged by the storm, he said.

AP

This photo pro­vided by Smith­so­nian Chan­nel shows the ru­ins of Kan­jin Gompa, a vil­lage in the Lang­tang Val­ley de­stroyed by a land­slide in a scene from the doc­u­men­tary, “Nepal Quake: Ter­ror on Ever­est,” a one-hour spe­cial air­ing in the U.S. on Mon­day, June 8.

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