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When making documentaries, sometimes the subject matter you portray suddenly changes focus midway through filming – and you end up making a completely different film that you had not originally intended.
This could come about from unforseen events.
At times those events are tragic.
It happened in the documentary “9/11 “when two French film makers were just filming a documentary on the life of New York Firemen- yet on a sunny September 11 morning, they ended up documenting the total horror of the Terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 2001.
“SHERPA“, the latest documentary to hit the big screen – has a similar edge.
It’s the true account of the tragic loss of 16 Sherpa mountaineers after an ice avalanche that happened near the Mt Everest summit in April 2014. What resulted after the tragedy was a bitter conflict between the Expedition Tour Managers and the Sherpa guides – culminating in an industrial stand-off, right on base camp.
Australian film-maker Jennifer Peedom was at base camp at the time. She was there with her team of specialist cinematographers to capture and film Mount Everest from the point of view of the Sherpas. Of course the images are epic and spectacular.
But when the tragic incident occurs, her cameras go inward and investigative. What it reveals is an even deeper, more disturbing undercurrent between a clash of two cultures.
It shows how Mt Everest has become a bastion for rich, high paying adventure tourists – and although it has made money for the Sherpa guides, it has also resulted in their exploitation and marginalisation. They are paid mere pittance taking on the more dangerous tasks such as hauling the heaviest and difficult gear (and risking their own lives) for the rich westerners, who’ve paid the tour expedition managers up to $50,000 to $100,000 to climb up and conquer Mt Everest.
The Sherpas see Mt Everest as a sacred place, calling it Chomolunga – “The Goddess Mother Of the World“. Its’ interesting to see how the Nepalese people respect the mountain, to the point where humans “should never tread foot on her”. Seeing their stories and then juxtaposing with how Western culture, commercialised endeavour and capitalist conquest has created a massive tourist industry for Nepal.
Climbing the highest Mountain in the World is a $360 million a year cash cow for the Nepalese economy – of which the government takes a third.
It was tragic to see that the top Sherpa guides might take only $5000 for a season and if they die, the government compensation is less than the cost of a funeral.
No wonder they decided to stop-work immediately after the incident.
It was interesting see the change of attitude within the tourist camp, how they were so sad and remorseful on the day of the tragic event – yet still wanted to climb up Everest later on the piece. By not respecting the Sherpas wishes – who by this time were conflicted and did not want to climb up the mountain, it resulted in a dramatic stand-off between the two cultures.
It’s high drama. Set on the highest place on Earth.
This documentary is a must-see.