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Title: Sherpa

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:74

It seems this year is the year for making films about Mt. Everest. Earlier this year we had the rousing feature film “Everest” (an intense ride if I do say so myself), and now a documentary regarding one of the greatest tragedies that has befallen the mountain top climbers. I’m not sure if it registered with many people, but 2016 is the first year in several years where climbing the famous mountain is actually happening. Back in 2014 a giant fallout between the Sherpa people (the indigenous Nepalese people at the base of Everest, as well as the term for the guides who trek people up and down the slope) and the climbers happened after a mass accident occurred. This accident was considered the BIGGEST loss of life and honor that has ever happened in Everest climbing history.

What makes Jennifer Peedom’s documentary so incredible is the fact that the tragedy mentioned above was not anticipated. In 2013 there was a giant falling out between the Sherpa guides and the western climbers. One that literally came to blows and nearly disrupted the entire climbing season. Going out with her crew, Jennifer intended for the documentary to cover the Nepalese people and the great risks that they were operating under in order to keep the tourist season alive. What she didn’t anticipate was a massive accident that would cause the deaths of over 13 Sherpa that would interrupt her little documentary.

The movie starts out simply enough. It introduces us to the Sherpa guides themselves and describes the conditions that they live in. Working part of the year with their 9-5 jobs (proverbial 9-5) the Sherpa then move on to climbing season where they can make up to TEN times their regular salaries by ferrying and guiding climbers up and down the mountain we’re introduced to Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa who is going to break world records by being one of the first people to climb the summit 22 times. While we’re following him and his family around and listening to their concerns about safety and money when the unthinkable occurs. An avalanche during a climb kills 16 Sherpa and leaves the entire basecamp (and the world) in utter shock. What had been a routine climb turned into a national tragedy which became even more hotly fueled by the 2013 fight that drew the crew to do their documentary in the first place.

Now it’s less about wages and more about the clashing of two cultures, with the Sherpa angrily crying out about the unsafe conditions and the climbers and clients vehemently against being leveraged by the indigenous people. Both sides are equally frustrated and Peedom does a good job at capturing both sides of the story without getting overly biased against the climbers (being that she WAS coming out to shoot a documentary about the Sherpa’s being taken advantage of). Don’t get me wrong. She’s firmly in the Sherpa camp, but she allows for both sides of the story to be told and does so in a fairly bi-partisan way.

It’s very hard for a documentary to be THAT captivating to me, but “Sherpa” really took the cake. The first 30 minutes of the film are fairly pedestrian and seem more of the same old same old, but once the accident happened the film just became INTENSE, and only got better and better as the time unfolded. We get to see the beauty of the Everest landscape and well as get an intimate look into what it takes to really get up the mountain, and the sacrifices these people undergo in order to allow westerners up and down their slopes.

As a little bit of wind down, I mentioned that Everest had been out of commission climbing wise for TWO years. After the 2014 strike by the Sherpa people and the closing down of the climbing season, 2015 experienced that giant earthquake in Nepal. An earthquake that claimed even MORE lives and the same climbers and Sherpas who were featured in this documentary were barely able to make it out alive. Something which has kick started and fueled a new drive for climbing safety in a sport that is already fraught with peril.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :3.5stars:
When it comes to the video quality “Sherpa” is a bit of a mixed back. The video quality rises and lowers depending on what camera is being used under what condition. Sometimes the icy snowy basecamp looks crystal clear, with deep blacks and great detail. While other times the camera used is blurry and sharpness drops off the radar. There are many times that the subtitles look stretched and blurry, and there are jagged lines that appear on the screen when a cheap handheld is used. It’s not a fault of the DVD encode at all, but rather the issues of blending camera shots from many different cameras with differing quality ranges being used. There’s some banding and crush in the encode, but overall it’s a satisfactory looking DVD.

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is a little bit better than the video, but it does ascribe to many of the eccentricities of a film recorded on the fly outside of a studio lot. Dialog is the focal point of the experience and that is replicated quite well, despite fluctuations due to the whipping winds at basecamp, or the differing audio levels that the cameras record at when interviewing people. There are several moments of fairly intense LFE that happen in the second half of the film, and the surrounds do get some solid activity with the musical score used to augment the track, but other than that it’s a fairly mild and front heavy mix.

Extras :1.5stars:

• The Making of "Sherpa"
• Deleted Scenes

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Sherpa” is an intense and gripping documentary. One that I really was wondering why it had gotten so much critical acclaim at first, but was soon won over with the intense look at a national tragedy. Peedom does a fantastic job at keeping the focus on the PEOPLE of the trip as well as the events that unfolded right in the way of what was supposed to be a simple documentary. The ending had to be adapted a little bit as the 2015 Nepal earthquake happened not a year after the filming was made, but it is fantastic stuff. Well worth a watch in my opinion.

Additional Information:

Directed By: Jennifer Peedon
Written By: Jennifer Peedon
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: NR
Runtime: 96 Minutes
DVD Release Date: October 11th, 2016

Buy Sherpa on DVD at Amazon

Recommendation: Enjoyable Watch

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