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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | August 7, 2020

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Sherpa - A Narrative of Loss, Greed and Uncertainty

Sherpa – A Narrative of Loss, Greed and Uncertainty

| On 07, Mar 2016

Sherpa, the definition – ‘a member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering’. Sherpa, the religion – close connections and great respect for the land and a strong belief in reincarnation. Sherpa, the legend – happy faced, always smiling, always helpful.

On April 18, 2014 tragedy struck Mt Everest when an icefall killed 16 people. This disaster attained world-wide media attention not only for the tragic loss of life but for a clash of Western and Eastern cultures wherein the power began to belong to the Nepalese people who now determine climbs on the mountain. It also provided an exposition of government corruption in Nepal and community poverty throughout the country.

 

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“Sherpa” follows the journey of Phurba Tashi Sherpa, who prior to the April 18th disaster, was about to embark on his 22nd expedition to the summit. This was a feat, if accomplished, which would have granted him a world record.

Tashi Sherpa’s family interviews were intercut with shots of their daily routines. His family were shown to be afraid for his safety as his wife had lost her brother to the mountain. His parents express the shame they feel he inflicts on the family from constantly tempting fate by challenging, and possibly, angering the mountain. These were sentiments that rippled through the village.

Although, abundantly clear, was the close relationship this cultural group share with the ‘Chomolungma’ (native name for the mountain). It helps define their purpose and through the mixed forms of documentary storytelling, the audience felt each moment of heartbreak, triumph and adversity. It was captivating to witness how a community of people honour the land through prayers, blessings and offerings.

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Acclaimed director Jennifer Peedom’s previous documentary works include the award-winning “Solo” (2008) and “Miracle on Everest” (2008). However, it is interesting to note that not only is “Sherpa” an Australian production but it’s an Australian production that also gives a voice to a minority group who is commonly overlooked. Connecting to Australian audiences is the underpinning thread of the ‘underdog’ story, one that has been conditioned into the Australian psyche. Peedom called into question morality paralleled political unrest and threatened violence. In “Sherpa” Peedom also calls into the spotlight the legend of Tenzing Nogray, a friendly Sherpa who accompanied Edmund Hillary on his successful 1953 expedition. However, his vital role in the expedition received hardly any recognition, thus began a long history of ‘white-washing’ the importance of Sherpas.

Western curiosity in scaling Mt Everest has heavily impacted Nepal. The main economic system is based on tourism. Westerners can pay up to $100, 000 for an expedition yet the Sherpas only earn 3% of that figure. A system that seemingly abuses the hard workers of its nation. “Sherpa” passively interrogates the differences between the Western and Eastern world, allowing audiences to see what human qualities are universal but also what can be considered cultural appropriation in one country clash.

 

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The breathtaking aerial shots of Mt Everest provided an air of tranquillity for audiences and cinematographers Renan Ozturk, Hugh Miller and Ken Sauls gave tantalising glimpses of the many faces of this natural wonder. You truly felt at one with Mother Nature. All her beauty, all her history, all her dangers that lay beneath the surface.

Sadly, Sherpa” is a narrative of loss: seasonal uncertainty, climate change, money, Western pressure – all influencing factors on the tightrope of life that these people must face in order to maintain their definition and legend. Their lives are not nearly as important as their financiers. Danger was, and is, forever present. Cycles of death affected every village and every family. But this is a cycle that continues to turn no matter the degree of devastation. At this point you must ask yourself – Why? What is this all for?

On April 25, 2015 earthquakes and avalanches claimed the lives of almost 9000 people in Nepal. With it’s theatrical release later this year, Sherpa” has partnered with Kathmandu and Intrepid Travel to raise funds and support the relief efforts to rebuild Nepal during its devastating time of need.

Sherpa will be released in Australian Cinemas on March 31, 2016.

 Image Credits: Sherpafilm.com