Mount Everest inspires numerous stories that put foreign climbers at the peak of attention. SHERPA shifts the focus to the Himalayan locals who do most of the heavy lifting on the mountain they call Chomolungma. Veteran director Jennifer Peedom follows an expedition with Phurba Tashi Sherpa, preparing for his world record-setting 22nd ascent as a guide. Shot in 2014, the film also documents unprecedented upheaval as an avalanche kills 16 Sherpas, and the tragedy incites others to challenge the status quo. In a film of nail-biting suspense and stunning cinematography, Peedom sensitively explores the complicated dynamics — social, environmental, economic and political — that have, with increasing peril, turned Chomolungma/Everest into a big business. Her narrative skillfully covers a wide cast of characters: the Sherpas include committed old hands and rebellious newcomers, while the outsiders range from compassionate to clueless. The film compares Eastern and Western views on how to regard the mountain. Writer Ed Douglas fills in the history that led up to the clashes of 2014. The number of adventurers looking to climb Everest has grown dramatically over time; aerial shots reveal that its treacherous pathways have become a traffic jam for climbers, as hundreds of thrill-seekers pay up to $75,000 for the experience. Meanwhile, Sherpas earn around $5,000 for an entire season's work. With the global rise of income inequality, this relevant film details the stark contrast between those who undertake the hardest work and those who reap the benefits. (Note courtesy of TIFF.) DIR/SCR Jennifer Peedom; PROD John Smithson. Australia/UK, 2015, color, 96 min, digital presentation. In English and Nepali with English subtitles. NOT RATED
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