Those who risk the most pay the greatest price. Sherpa is the real and tragic story of Mount Everest, 2014. This powerful documentary highlights the incredible sherpas who consistently help thrill seekers up the world’s highest mountain. It has already picked up some well-deserved awards and nominations and will no doubt gain more for the moving story it portrays.
After a brawl erupted on the mountain in 2013, filmmakers set out to document the rising tensions between sherpas and foreign climbers. They ended up caught in the middle of the worst disaster ever to befall Everest – the day that would change life on Everest forever.
We follow expedition operator Russell Brice and his team of 25 sherpas, led by Phurba Tashi, as they try to guide a group of clients to the top of the world. Phurba immediately becomes the hero of the story and, through him and his team, we learn of their immense and dangerous job.
If Phurba and the other sherpas are heroes, it is the foreign climbers and Russell Brice who come across as the closest thing to villains. An air of exploitation lingers throughout.
Russell is difficult to characterise: having to balance the dreams of his high-paying clients with the safety of the sherpas (as well as their need for the money) puts him in difficult situations. The film fails to explore his generous charity work, which may redeem him and seems to alternate between portraying him as the good, safety-first, sherpa-first expert and the money-first, “we should climb no matter what” businessman.
Deciding how to tell the story is often a challenge for documentarians, but Sherpa is tied together wonderfully by the narration of writer and journalist Ed Douglas. His historical knowledge, tense storytelling and genuine feelings keep the film engaging.
Amazing footage of the mountain, village, campsites and rituals feature throughout; it is a truly beautiful film, even as things turn ugly. But the portrayal of the actual disaster is underwhelming: such a massive, devastating event is reduced to little, though the enormity of what has happened is quickly established as panic spreads.
Director Jen Peedom has done an incredible job telling the story of the brave sherpas in this exquisite yet tragic documentary. Hopefully many will watch Sherpa and give the real heroes of Everest the recognition they deserve.
Sherpa is released nationwide on 18th December 2015 and will broadcast globally on Discovery Channel in 2016, for further information visit here.
Watch the trailer for Sherpa here: