SHERPA | REVIEW

SHERPA was one of my most anticipated movies of the 2015 Sydney Film Festival. A movie that follows the tale of the Sherpa, the always heard about, rarely credited assistants of the climbers of Nepal, mainly on Everest, always in the background but never given any glory. SHERPA tells the story of the Sherpa and gives them their dues and respect as it should be seen. Screenings for SHERPA are now over at the SFF but I do believe this is getting a cinema release later in the year at art-house locations. It runs for 96mins and is currently unrated (feels like an M). It was a great honour to be in attendance for this premiere at the State Theatre, and to be in the presence of Norbu Tenzing Norgay, son of the great man himself, Tenzing Norgay. Hearing him speak was inspiring.

 

SHERPA MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
SHERPA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY JASON KING

What originally started as a documentary that would follow Sherpa, Phurba Tashi Sherpa, as he summited Everest for his world record breaking 22nd time as a Sherpa for an American guided tour group that takes rich people to the top of Sagarmāthā, took a sudden turn for the worst in mid filming when the largest disaster hit Everest, a collapse in the Khumbu Icefall, the most dangerous section of the Everest route, saw sixteen Sherpas killed. Director, Jennifer Peedom, was there to film the plight and show the conditions of the Sherpas, as opposed to now showing it through the eyes of Phurba Tashi Sherpa, she now thought on her feet and filmed what was happening with the disaster, and how it effected the Sherpas and would change the conditions for Sherpas and climbers forever.

The documentary is clever, stunningly shot and superbly produced considering a lot of it was made on the run and not to plan, I honestly wanted the original plan, a movie of huge triumph with Phurba Tashi Sherpa standing on the summit and receiving glory, so while I was let down due to global warming, environmental decline and the nature of Chomolungma I appreciated what they told of the story, how they managed to keep a story in motion and to see the conditions and treatment of the Sherpa.

 

SHERPA MOVIE IMAGE
SHERPA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | PHURBA TASHI SHERPA AND OTHER SHERPAS

 

Phurba Tashi Sherpa’s story is a great one, currently holding the joint record for most climbs and on the verge of a possible twenty-second summit, he is managing the team of Sherpa’s for Russell Brice’s internationally renowned climbing tour company, some of who’s clients pay hundred’s of thousands of dollars to summit. More pressure this year as a few of them are returning after an aborted 2012 summit attempt. Brice represents the foreigners, the big corporate body there to make money, his company gets hundreds of thousands of dollars and the Sherpas get something like $35- per climb to each camp to deliver the supplies needed for the tourists.

My favourite part of the movie was visiting Phurba Tashi Sherpa’s hometown, sadly a town destroyed in the recent Nepalese Earthquake disasters. Seeing the humanising of the Sherpa through Phurba Tashi Sherpa’s family is something never seen before and the genuine fear and heartache etched on his wife’s face says it all. She lost her brother to the mountain in 2013 and is fearful she will also lose her husband, his son’s also fear the same, but the allure of the money made from the climb is generally worth the risk.

 

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SHERPA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | RUSSELL BRICE COORDINATING RESCUE EFFORTS

 

We start seeing that SHERPA is combining the dangers undertaken and skills of the Sherpa and its need for foreign climbers for financial survival. But at the same time Sherpa are getting more educated, facing higher dangers, higher climbing tourists (actually causing traffic jams on the mountain) all while being treated more like porter slaves, if one of them dies their benefits to their family are not worthy. We see footage of a 2013 fight that broke out at base camp after a climber swore at a Sherpa, this disrespect is in no way acceptable considering the Sherpa are risking their lives daily to see these climbers reach a summit. This fight saw the foreign climber try to apologise while being abused and kicked by Sherpas who were at a boiling point and realising they deserve more respect. A respect I fear they still do not get. Hearing one of Brice’s clients say “can’t we get in touch with their owners and have them removed” when discussing the possible few bad seed Sherpa’s rallying for a season cancelation, saw the entire 2000 person audience at The State Theatre gasp in disgust. And while Brice balances the best for his clients and the safety of staff I fear he does lean towards himself over both of them. It appeared as if he decided to cancel the season for his climbing teams and suggested other Sherpas had threatened to break his Sherpa’s legs if they climbed. Something not corroborated by anyone else. The clincher here is Brice gets paid regardless, summit or no summit. He cancelled the need to climb, thus saving face and possible lives in the front of his Sherpas, also saving money on the need to climb and then he still pocketed the money, cancellations would be in the interest of Brice in this one.

 

SHERPA MOVIE IMAGE
SHERPA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | SHERPAS CLIMBIMG

 

The cinematography in the movie is just stunning, director Jennifer Peedom has spent a few years on Everest and is clearly comfortable operating out of base camp. They use multiple cameras from GoPro, iPhone to high end digital cameras. SHERPA has two altitude cinematographers (Renan Ozturk and Ken Sauls), a base camp DP (Hugh Miller), and some stunning helicopter photography, it looks good! It also has two epic producers in Bridget Ikin (THE ROCKET, THE TRACKER), John Smithson (TOUCHING THE VOID, 127 HOURS) who support Peedom in leaps and bounds.

I wanted the glory for Phurba Tashi Sherpa, but the glory goes to his family, due to the cancellation of the season he retired from climbing and his family can get his life for much longer. The success in SHERPA is it witnessed a much due mini-rebellion from Sherpas that will benefit them for years to come and see some overdue respect and equality. Sadly the 2014 season was cancelled due to the deaths of the sixteen Sherpa, just as sad this season has also been cancelled due to the devastation of the Nepalese earthquake that has destroyed many Sherpa homes.

If you can spare a few dollars they need our help –

Donations to the Nepal Earthquake aid efforts can be made at via the following organisations:
RED CROSS (AUSTRALIA)
UNHCR
UNICEF

 

4 Pops

 

Apologies – no trailer available for this one as yet!