Friday, 22 January 2016

REVIEW - SHERPA (JENNIFER PEEDOM)


The thrill of watching a completed work that's also a work-in-progress. Sherpa is practically produced before our eyes, ostensibly one out-of-the-ordinary true story transformed into an extraordinary true story by tragedy and turmoil. Jennifer Peedom is uncovering a deeper, more resonant truth than the ephemeral relationship between obnoxious Westerners and their magnificent subject, Mt. Everest; her subjects are the Sherpas, and the truth she relays of their relationship with Chomolungma is, too, transformed by tragedy and turmoil, and in an infinitely more profound manner. The final side to the triangle completes Sherpa in a most satisfactory way, chronicling the interaction between these two groups of people, uncovering deeper truths still about humanity, confirming suggestions and suspicions and transforming this film into a psychological study that's even more unexpected than the avalanche that engenders it. Jennifer Peedom's film is, by turns, horrifying, terrifying and triumphant, not merely by virtue of a smart choice of subject in a remarkable, accidental circumstance, but by a genuine respect for the Sherpa people. She enters into this project with clarity, humility and respect; in depicting Sherpa culture with simplicity, honesty, a lack of ambiguity yet an appreciation that this depiction could never fully capture every last essence of its subject, she forms an understanding of it that is far greater than that of this film's arrogant foreign invaders. By and large, they cannot appreciate the legitimacy of this culture, too entrenched are they in their entitlement - Peedom is as perceptive here as elsewhere, and her unintrusive empathy as a filmmaker allows her to allow others to hang themselves, or to save themselves, as they see fit. It's the unexpected thrill of the unexpected, so much so that even Sherpa's real-life characters don't truly see any of it coming.