Sherpa is not just a documentary; it’s an experience. For all you thought you knew about the adventures of mountaineering, is entirely different on the other side of the mountain; Chomolungma. The mountain is more commonly known by its English name ‘Mount Everest’.
Click here to view the trailer
We were also given the pleasure of interviewing the directors themselves:
1. Why do you feel you wanted to tell this story? Especially because of the angle you take and how did you feel you could express this film-atically/narratively?
‘I wanted to make this film because for too long I had watched the Sherpas hit the cutting room floor of the many films made on Everest. I had worked in the Himalaya as a camera operator and director over a decade and had formed close friendships with the Sherpa team at the heart of this film. While they would never say so overtly, they were disappointed and frustrated about the lack of recognition they received for the incredibly dangerous work they do in getting foreigners up the mountain, and importantly back down safely. I had long wanted to make a film that showed exactly how things actually work on Everest, and highlight the disproportionate risks that Sherpas take. So we decided to follow an Everest season from the Sherpa point of view. We could never know that the worst disaster in the history of Everest would unfold as we were filming.’
2. What were the physical, creative and emotional challenges of making the film?
‘The physical challenges of making a film on Everest are many, and largely relate to the cold and the extreme altitude. For that reason, I handpicked an extremely experienced and talented crew, including two young Sherpa cameraman, both with several Everest summits under their belt. When the avalanche happened, we had to respond quickly in a situation that was loaded with grief, which quickly turned to anger. We were in a good position to capture that, but it wasn’t always easy. We were aware that we were documenting an historic event, and we had no idea how this story would end. For all the crew, it was a challenging physical experience, but more so, a highly emotional one. Some of the most important scenes in the film are the films with the wives, widows and families of the Sherpa, back in the villages. For me, they were probably the most difficult to capture.
We were determined to make a beautiful, cinematic film that captured the spiritual reverence the Sherpa people hold for Everest, so doing that in this kind of environment was extremely difficult. Thanks to a hugely talented crew, I think we pulled that off.
Many of the creative challenges we then faced were actually in the edit suite, dealing with 400 hours of footage captured on the mountain. Hours of material that needed translating and the challenge of ‘finding’ the story in the edit.’
3. How did you decide to use the camera in order to help enhance the viewers experience?
‘We used a wide range of cameras on this project. Everything from an iPhone, to capture the initial Sherpa protest meetings (filmed by our Sherpa crew), to a ton of Go Pro footage filmed by our team climbing on the mountain, smaller run and gun type cameras that the Sherpa crew and I used to document various scenes, to Red Epic cameras, and an Alexa. Renan Ozturk one of our amazing cinematographers filmed beautiful aerials and a ton of amazing time lapses. We also took a MoVi, which is a handheld camera stabilizer, which gave us the ability to shoot cinema quality tracking shots without laying any tracks or heavy stedicam rigs. Weight is always an essential factor when shooting at altitude.’
4. Lastly, what music did you use and why?
‘We had a wonderful composer, Antony Partos, who has already won several awards for his score on Sherpa. He is one of the best, and I had wanted to work with him a long time. We used a full scoring orchestra to score the film, and also used an amazing cello soloist, Julian Thompson who I have worked with on other films.’
Ambitious mountaineers come from every corner of the world, some looking for a story to take home and some just come to feed their passion for mountain climbing. But little does the world know, the lives of many depend of the future of Chomolungma. That’s a journey that this documentary will take you through; a truly eye opening experience. As Sherpa Jamling Tenzing reminds us; “My father says you don’t conquer these mountains, you just crawl up, as a child crawling onto their mother’s lap.”
Bridget Ikin and John Smithson
SHERPA releases in cinemas on 15th December and will be broadcast globally on Discovery in 2016. Find listings here.