Everest has always been a focal point for Western climbers and film makers alike. No other mountain holds the history and mystique of Chomolungma and the desire to climb it has transformed that part of the Himalayas into a tourist resort. The overcrowding in base camp and the logjams on the mountain itself culminated in an angry stand-off between Sherpas and Western climbers in 2013. Jennifer Peedom was drawn to Everest in 2014 to document the Sherpas’ point of view but ended up capturing a different story.
When Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to reach the summit of Everest in 1953 it began a mutually beneficial relationship between climber and guide that lasted in relative harmony for decades. Whilst Sherpas are well paid compared to the average Nepalese worker, they’re an integral part of a multi-million dollar industry exploited by the organised climbing teams. Until now, there’s been hardly any interest shown in the people without whom it would be impossible to climb the mountain.
On 18 April 2014 a huge block of ice crashed down through one of the perilous icefalls killing 16 Sherpas. This became the new focus for Peedom in her documentary Sherpa. Capturing the beauty and danger of the Himalayas superbly, she documents the fall-out from the tragedy and the struggle faced by people torn between the need to feed their families and the dangers of their work. Sherpa is essentially a struggle for workers’ rights which is impressively made and casts a shadow over the West’s relationship with Everest.
SHERPA is in cinemas now and will broadcast globally on Discovery Channel in 2016. For listings see http://sherpafilm.com/