How K2 Is Bringing Pakistan And Brazil Together

By Sarmad Amer | 16 Jun, 2015

In Pakistan, much of the traditional discourse about tourism has been sprinkled with discomfort over the security situation in the mountainous regions. Such concerns, however, are no reason for the real enthusiasts to sit back and curl up in the comfort of their air conditioned homes, or book a ticket to mall-hop in the criminally decadent Dubai.


The real travel junkies can find ways to still head up north for an adventure or two, regardless of the circumstances.  And why not? After all, traveling helps you not only get acquainted with the world outside of your familiar surroundings, it allows you the chance to experience life from someone else’s point of view. It teaches you so much and helps you become a better, more compassionate, person.


And this was the message behind the enchanting “K2 and the Invisible Footmen” documentary which was recently screened at the 1st Pakistan Mountain Film Festival that was held on June 13 and 14, 2015 at the Alhamra Cultural Complex.


Here’s what we learnt from the movie:

[divider]A movie can be successfully made on the world’s most dangerous summit[/divider]

The documentary, centered on the life of high altitude porters who help mountain climbers scale the world’s second highest mountain – K2, is made by Brazilian director, Iara Lee. She fell in love with the northern regions of Pakistan when she made an earlier short film about the Kalash tribe.

PIMFF Screening
Source: Cultures of Resistance Network

Ms. Lee, pictured above at the screening with a friend, decided that she wanted to bring to light the plight of these porters, who with no training and no alternative means to earn a respectable living continue to support their families by risking their lives, carrying weights of 25 to 35 kilograms, wearing only an ordinary pair of (usually torn) sneakers, to some of the highest peaks in the world.

And these men do all of this knowing that 1 in every 4 climbers to summit K2 never returns!


[divider]A documentary does not mean that a movie has to be boring[/divider]

“K2 and Invisible Footmen” is a very hard-hitting documentary but it is no not a typical one with “experts” droning on in a monotone, spewing statistics left, right and center. It is, in fact, one of the most engaging, funniest, thrilling and exciting movies one has seen in recent years. The director gives a lot of credit for helping her make it an engaging movie to the editor, Jawad Sharif, whose skills never make the audience realize they are watching a documentary.

Source: National Geographic

The beautiful locales of the extreme north of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region sure do help! So does the interesting “soundtrack” which is a smattering of song and dance, usually local songs or old Bollywood numbers, sung while sitting in a circle to the beat of clapping in rhythm,  that these porters engage in to entertain themselves. And possibly distract from the gravity of how life-threatening their jobs are!


[divider]There is no support from the Government[/divider]

While there is nothing new in this statement, most of you would be interested to know that the Nepalese government supports their porters, called Sherpas because they usually belong to the ethnic community of the same name who are mountain dwellers in the region, by training them for expeditions to Mount Everest with some of the world’s best mountaineers. They are provided with the best equipment, climbing gear, clothing and fees to do their jobs while our porters do all of this in simple shalwar kameez, torn Bata sneakers and dedication that, in the words of foreign mountaineers in the movie, is “unmatched” by anyone in the world.


Here’s another fun fact:  The climbing fee for Mount Everest was recently recorded to be $11,000 for one person. While the fee for a group of 7 climbers to K2 has been recorded at $1700 only!


[divider]“Contraceptives are not your friends”[/divider]

– courtesy the friendly neighboorhood Mullahs

When I said the movie has all the elements of a good movie, I meant it has EVERYTHING. And in an attempt to capture a facet of the lives of these porters that mountaineers don’t generally get to see even with face-to-face contact, is their personal lives. It is revealed that these porters are the sole breadwinners for families of as many as 10 children, in certain instances; while the average number of kids per porter is 5.

Source: Gawker

Why don’t they employ ways of preventing these accidents when they can clearly not afford to feed all of these children, you ask? All of this is thanks to their mullahs, told the porters. They are told by these mullahs to maybe (yes, maybe) get their wives to eat birth control pills but NEVER EVER use a condom. This fact, while it generated a few nervous chuckles from the jam packed audience, does loom over our heads as a symbol of how illiteracy makes us more susceptible to manipulation by those who themselves know no better.


[divider]If a movie is good, it will fill the hall(s). And then some![/divider]

No doubt, the extensive Facebook marketing paid off for the filmmakers, but the engaging content and beautiful execution of the documentary helped the festival fill two halls and an outdoor screening, simultaneously, and then change the schedule on the second day to accommodate still more people who were coming in throngs to see the film. As the director put it, “it felt as if the whole city of Lahore knew about the movie”.

PIMFF Audience Award
Courtesy: Cultures of Resistance Network

All of this made the movie a resounding success and earned it a very well deserved ‘Audience Award’.


You missed the movie screening? No problem, here’s a sneak peek of it:

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