4-10 December 2015 #785

Mountain Cinema

The 13th Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival opens next week

The Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF) returns to the capital for its 13th edition next week. Over 80 films from 25 countries will be screened at the five-day festival which starts 10 December at the Kumari Cinema Complex.

Expect a wide spectrum of films – from documentaries to fiction, adventure cinema to experimental shorts – all highlighting the relationship between the dramatic natural landscape of mountains with human cultural practises, religion, extreme sports and adventure.

The festival this year opens with the screening of Bhagyale Bachekaharu (Nepal Earthquake: Heroes, Survivors and Miracles), a documentary film by Ganesh Panday. A short-film competition 'Seismic Shift' focusing on the experiences of Nepalis during the earthquake has been added to this year’s event.

British climber and journalist Ed Douglas, Korean film scholar Eun Young Kim, Indian film editor Namrata Rao and film critic Premendra Nath Mazumdar are the jury members for this year’s festival. The four will judge the best documentaries in the international competition, the top documentary and the fiction film in the Nepal Panaroma section.

The winning film in the international competition category will receive a prize of $1,500, whilst second and third place winners are awarded $1,000 and $500 respectively.

In the Nepal Panorama Category Rs 50,000 will be awarded to the winning fiction and documentary film, and $1,000 will be awarded to the best film on mountain development issues within the region. As in the past, the festival will include discussion forums, guest lectures, photo exhibition and installation art projects. Folk-rock star Amrit Gurung of Nepathya will join Nepali Times Editor Kunda Dixit to present the popular Know Your Himal Quiz.

KIMFF 2015

10-14 December

Kumari Cinema, Kamalpokhari


Telling the Sherpa story

One of the highly anticipated films to be screened at KIMFF this year, Sherpa, tells the dramatic story of the avalanche on Mt Everest last year. Released in October, the film by Jen Peedom was named the official selection for the Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne International Film Festivals and won the Best Film: Mountain Culture at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.

Nepali Times spoke to Jen Peedom.

Nepali Times: You have quite a history in the Himalaya, what lead you to Nepal to begin with?

Jen Peedom: I first came to Nepal to go trekking with a friend in 2003. We trekked to Chhukung, and like so many others, I was entranced by Nepal and the sheer force and beauty of the Himalaya.

What inspired you to produce a film on Sherpas?

Over the years, I watched Sherpas being left on the cutting room floor of many Everest films, and while they would never say anything, I knew that it hurt them, because they knew they were taking a disproportionate share of the risk in getting foreigners to the summit and back down safely. So we set out to make a film that followed an Everest expedition from the Sherpas’ point of view. But we could never have anticipated what happened on the mountain last year and the avalanche highlighted the very real risks that Sherpas take every time they step onto the mountain. The simple truth is, that they are exposed to the risks more than foreign climbers, as they spend more time on the mountain, carrying loads, setting up camps, and fixing ropes. 

Your intention for the film to begin with were entirely altered by the 2014 avalanche. Where were you and how did it affect your storytelling?

I was in my tent at Base Camp when the avalanche struck. I heard it, and very quickly realised that it would probably change everything. Given that we were there, documenting a Sherpa specific story, I felt we had a responsibility to continue filming and to see where the story led us. 

The avalanche provided you with a filming opportunity that you obviously didn’t expect, what are some of major difficulties that this presented?

The biggest issue was communication. The base camp rumour mill went into overdrive after the avalanche and it was hard to fully understand what was going on. There were many competing agendas and the emotion was very intense. I spent a lot of time walking up and down the glacier, visiting the camps, talking to different people, trying to take stock of what had happened, what was happening, and what it all meant. 

I had a Sherpa interpreter with me, Nima Sherpa from Lukla, who was invaluable, but it wasn’t until we got home and had all the footage translated did I realise what I had on my hands. As time went on, Sherpas started to know about our film, and many came and visited our camp, wanting to share their point of view. It was very validating to know they were prepared to talk, share their views and were being supportive of the film. 

Was there a difficulty in producing a film amongst the chaos of the proceeding events without being exploitative?

As a documentary filmmaker, you always tread a delicate ethical line. I use my instincts as much as I can, and consulted on an almost hourly basis with my Sherpa team. We had a Sherpa translator on the team, a Sherpa camera assistant and two specially trained Sherpa cameramen - Nawang and Nima Sherpa from Phortse. 

There have been a number of documentaries made on Sherpas. What kind of new insights can viewers expect to gain from watching this film?

I think what viewers can expect to gain from watching this film, is a unique point of view at a moment in history on Everest that changed everything. Things will never be the same after that avalanche. The Sherpas effectively cancelled the season, and in doing so, proved to themselves, and the world that the Sherpa/Foreigner dynamic on Everest has irrevocably shifted.  The images, sound and music on this film are world class. The reviews of the film all speak of the breathtaking visuals. The film has had an incredible run on the international festival circuit, picking up lots of awards, including the best documentary at the London Film Festival. 

What do you hope to achieve with your film?

With Everest constantly in the headlines, and seemingly and endless supply of people wanting to climb it, I hope we have presented a side to the mountain that makes people look it in a different way. I hope it makes people who want to climb Everest, think a little harder about what they are asking their Sherpas to do, and understand the risks that they are asking the Sherpas to take.  Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) recently had the chance to see the film, and this is what he had to say. 

Sherpa is a stunningly beautiful, highly nuanced, extremely powerful documentary. It explains what the Sherpa do on Everest—and the terrible price they pay—in a way that no other film or book ever has. I wish that every foreign climber who ever attempts Everest in the future, or has ever attempted it in the past, would take the time to see this film.