Following the news of a fight breaking out between European climbers and the local Sherpa’s at Everest basecamp in 2013, filmmaker Jennifer Peedom set out to film the next years climbing season, showcasing the role of the Sherpa, how it has changed, how it’s perceived and what their relationship is to the mountain and the foreign climbers who come to conquer it. Instead, what she captured was a tragic event that would change Everest forever.
“Sherpa” is one of those rare examples of a filmmaker capturing lightning in a bottle. Setting out to make one important film but having your circumstances change and being able to adapt and instead present an even more impactful and important story while still maintaining a clear and focused narrative. Through brilliant editing and a breathtaking medias res presentation Peedom elegantly weaves the story of the tragic avalanche that killed 16 Sherpa’s in 2014, never once treading into exploitative territory as the film clearly maintains it’s neutral stance of presenting the facts as they unfold.
One of the key elements in helping “Sherpa” connect with its audience is the visuals and similar to other recent documentaries like “The Imposter” or “The Act of Killing” the film is shot more stylishly than most fictional narrative films. The breathtaking camera work helps the audience to connect with not only the beauty of the landscape but also puts you alongside the men when tragedy strikes, allowing you to really feel the emotion and the heartache that they’re going through.
While the film does its best to present a non-biased take on the events depicted you can’t help but feel that some simple shots have been taken at the foreign climbers (a few instances of cringe-worthy reactions from them really make you dislike them and could have been left on the editing room floor) but at the end of the day this is a film about the Sherpa’s and their struggle for respect and recognition, an important issue that is brought to light tastefully in this superbly crafted doc.
8 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan