Director: Jennifer Peedom (2015)
Money, militancy and mountaineering on Mount Everest cause an avalanche of unrest in this refreshing documentary.
Told with an icy clarity and crystal clear cinematography, it’s a Sherpa’s eye view of an ill fated expedition in 2014.
Sherpas are used by wealthy Western tourists as pack horses to transport the necessary equipment from successive camps up the mountain.
What is a monumental ego trip for wealthy foreigners is an economic imperative for the local population. It’s also a major revenue stream for the Nepalese government.
An exploration of how the mountaineering industry has long marginalising the Sherpa’s achievements in favour of Western climbers provides a foothold for the thrust of the story.
The brief two month season when a summit is achievable sees TV and film crews jostle for space in human traffic jams on the mountainside.
When major fatalities occur, the Sherpas refuse to continue to facilitate the climb, putting the entire lucrative summit season at risk.
Everest is a place of holy significance to the Nepalese and they have no wish to dishonour the dead by climbing over the frozen bodies or further put their lives in danger.
Bullying, lies and misinformation swirl around the camp as a government delegation fly in to pacify the angry workers, frustrated tour operators and petulant climbers.
Sherpa would make an interesting double bill with the excellent You’ve Been Trumped (2011). It’s a fascinating account of how the Scots government allowed the US billionaire Donald Trump to bulldoze areas of outstanding natural beauty to build golf courses.
They share stories of bullish foreign money and a compliant government marginalising its own citizens to exploit precious natural resources.
While holding union meetings on the vertiginous heights, the Sherpas achieve a greater perspective on life than their over-privileged and arrogant employers.