Sherpa (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 8, 2016 by  

Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014. “Sherpa” is recommended!

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DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Lions Gate


Release Date: October 11, 2016

Directed by Jennifer Peedom

Written by Jennifer Peedom

Produced by Bridget Ikin, John Smithson

Executive Producer: John Maynard, David Griffin, David Gross

Music by Antony Partos

Cinematography by Renan Ozturk, Hugh Miller, Ken Sauls

Edited by Christian Gazal

Every year, Western mountain climbers make news ascending Mount Everest. But the compelling stories of the Sherpas, the Nepalese guides who risk their lives to provide for their families, have gone untold — until now. SHERPA chronicles a fateful 2014 expedition and the tragic avalanche that spurred the Sherpas to make a stand for human rights and respect. SHERPA will forever change the way you look at the world’s most famous mountain — and the brave guides who navigate it.

Sherpa.  They are an ethnic group in eastern Nepal and are the guides that have helped climbers accomplish their Mount Everest expeditions.

The importance of the Sherpa people as guides have been well-documented on film, including the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory to Eric Valli’s documentary “Himalaya” about the life of villagers in the area.

We know that life is difficult, making money is difficult in Nepal.  But while many large expeditions every year on Mount Everest has led to multi-million dollar industry, the government makes the money, while the Sherpa risk their lives by being guides to those on an expedition.

In 2013, the Serpa people showed how they were not subservient people to the foreigners as a fight had broken out.  But what one would not expected is the deadly 2014 expedition due to a tragic avalanche and what came after the fatal expedition.

Documenting events that have happened in the area from 2013-2014, filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew were there to document the expeditions of 2013 and 2014 for her 2015 film, “Sherpa”.

“Sherpa” is a film that follows Phurba Tashi, a Sherpa who has made 21 Mount Everest ascents and is trying to go for the world record.  His family dislikes Phurba taking on this risky job, fearing that he will never come back, but Phurba enjoys it and feels its the only way to make good money.

His latest job is for New Zealand’s Russel Brice who runs one of the more reputable expedition company’s for Mt. Everest, Himex.

Phurba gathers a team of Sherpas to take these foreign climbers up Mt. Everest, but what they are not aware or prepared for is a major ice avalanche which would kill over a dozen Sherpas.

As Brice and his crew feel the expedition must go-on and feels that mountaineering has its risks, for business, he wants to continue with the expedition.

Meanwhile, after the deaths of their own people, the Sherpas stage a protest and in solidarity, want to hit back at the government for their unfair treatment of Sherpa guides who hardly make money versus the government who are pocketing millions from these expeditions.

Will this expedition continue?  Or will there be a resolution among the Sherpa people and their government?


“Sherpa” is presented in 16:9 anamorphic (2:35:1 aspect ratio) and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Picture quality and audio quality is as good as it can get on DVD. The film is primarily dialogue driven.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear.

If anything, I wish this documentary was released on Blu-ray!


“Sherpa” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Sherpa – (11:49) Interviews with filmmaker Jennifer Peedom and her film crew especially filming a traumatic moment.
  • Deleted Scenes


“Sherpa” comes with a slipcover and an UltraViolet Digital code.

I have watched films, read many articles about the importance of the Sherpa guides in expeditions to Mount Everest.

From the 1924 J.B.L. Noel documentary “The Epic of Everest” about English mountaineers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory which was the first film to document an expedition to Mount Everest, the film would feature a major tragedy.

Fastforward to 2016 and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” not only shows us how expeditions have become big business in Nepal and tensions have grown between westerners and Sherpa.  Peedom’s crew wanted to document this and what she got was more than she expected, with the tragic avalanche of 2014.

Far often, what we read are the challenges of climbing Mount Everest.  The challenges of altitude and finding experienced Sherpas.

But while we have read the communal respect of climbers and the Sherpa, things changed in 2013, which had been detailed in various news sources and publications (read this interview from National Geographic).  And situations became hostile, as customs and miscommunication reared its ugly head.

While, “Sherpa” goes into that and the avalanche tragedy of 2014, this is not a film about how much of a mess things have become due to commercialization and money.  But filmmaker Jennifer Peedom also goes into detail of showing us Nepal culture but paying respect to people such as Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary.  And also, now retired, Sherpa mountaineer Phurba Tashi Sherpa Mendewa (who was featured in the 2009 Discovery Channel series, “Everest: Beyond the Limit”) and learning of the challenges he faces as a father, who’s family wants him to quit being a mountaineer.  But also knowing that when it comes to being a Sherpa guide, it’s the only job that pays well.

The film also features Russel Brice, owner of Himex guide firm responsible for organizing expeditions to Mount Everest.  And the challenges he feels as the middleman of having to work with the Sherpa, especially after the 2014 tragedy and within days, knowing the troubles that surround the Sherpa as many want to continue with the expedition, but were threatened by other Sherpa that if they do so, they would be beaten.

It’s obvious that watching “Sherpa”, there has been lingering tensions as the need of Sherpa guides have grown exponentially and has been a huge business for organizers of expeditions and the Nepal government.  Because of the big money involved, there is a lot of competition, a lot of anger and tensions over lack of pay, lack of government willingness to pay compensation to victims families.

So much has changed and I never knew the extent of tensions and how competitive things are until I watched this documentary.  And the thing is, you can put yourself in the shoes of the Sherpa, Phurba Tashi, Russel Brice or his clients and you can understand what they are going through.

The Sherpa guides are doing a high risk business where there are a number of casualties and they know how much each client pays to be part of an expedition (as of 2016, the estimated range is $60,000 – You can see a financial breakdown here.).  Phurba Tashi is a man who wants to provide for his family and has a passion for the mountains. Russel Brice is a man with a business and his business survives on expeditions but having to please both the Sherpas and his clients.  And the clients, for many, Mount Everest is their dream.  Many save up and sacrifice their job, leave their families for two months to pursue this expensive dream.

You can read about the tensions, but nothing really compares to when you see the tensions up front and Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” does a magnificent job of showing us how bad things have gotten in 2013 and 2014.  To make matters worse, in April 2015 was the Nepal Earthquake which killed 9,000 people and injured 22,000.  On Mount Everest, the earthquake would trigger an avalanche that would kill 21.  And to this day, aftershocks in different areas of Nepal have continued.

While how things will go for Mount Everest Expeditions from 2016 and on, no one knows.  But there are obvious issues that have been slowly burning, almost similar to a situation of gentrification in inner cities, between the haves and have nots, things are much more complicated as exhibition organizers want to build a business but work with the Sherpa and their clients.  Clients want to accomplish a dream of climbing Mount Everest and while the government pockets from these expeditions and more Sherpa guides are wanted, thus bringing a new and unknown set of people without experience into the mix, it’s hard to not think that while tensions were elevated in 2013, there is a boiling point that has not yet been fully reached.

And that can be scary.

Overall, Jennifer Peedom’s “Sherpa” is an insightful and wonderful documentary on Sherpa culture, big business, high tension, unfortunate tragedy but also hope for changes in the system after the avalanche tragedy of 2014.

“Sherpa” is recommended!


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