DICKSON filmmaker, Hallam Drury, is off to the slopes of the Himalayas next year to make a film about one of Nepal’s most marginalised communities.
The Kulung people of eastern Nepal are responsible for upholding the Everest trekking industry as porters, cooks, store hands and housekeepers, but are overlooked, underappreciated and subjected to an industry that exploits their cheap labour and desperation, he believes.
“Carrying Everest” is produced for Alpha Rhythm Films by Drury, whose short film, “Kiana,” was shown at the High Desert International Film Festival and the Lifefest Film Festival in 2014, along with co-producer Leah Davies, soundtrack by Jeffrey Zampillo and editing by Philip Meddows.
Drury and his colleagues have launched a crowdfunding campaign to shoot the documentary “Carrying Everest” a film about the Kulung.
Precariously perched on the mountainsides of the Hongu Valley stand the villages of Chheskam, Sotang, Bung and Gudel, the area known as Mahakulung and home to the Kulung people, who are one of several ethnic groups indigenous to Solukhumbu, the land of Everest.
While there are countless tales about the heroes who conquer telling of conquest over the world’s tallest mountain, the stories of those who make it possible for 30,000 tourists to visit the region each year are often forgotten. Twice a year, approximately 8,000 Kulung travel to the Everest trail, seeking work as porters, cooks, store hands and housekeepers
“The Kulung are the most marginalised community residing on the slopes of Everest,” says Dilip Kulung, who was born and raised in Chheskam. “They are, in fact, the main pillar of the Everest tourism industry but unfortunately, they have been treated as the mountain’s slave.”
The Nepalese earthquake and aftershocks of 2015 meant that in Chheskam alone, over 300 homes were destroyed, with those still standing deemed at risk of collapse. But despite this natural catastrophe, stories of courage, dreams and community are yet to be told.
“Carrying Everest is a film about heroic exploits – the power of the heart, the passion for life and noble people striving to build a better life,” Drury says. “Despite the earthquake, despite the frustrating circumstances and inequality, there are also inspiring stories of human agency. We want to shine a light on their strength and resilience, not just the adversity they face.”
To be filmed in September/October 2016, the documentary will see a joint Australian/Kulung film crew travel approximately 200 kilometres on foot throughout Mahakulung and the wider Solukhumbu region, climaxing with a climb to Everest Base Camp.
But they need money. The filmmakers are now hoping to raise at least AUD$3,000 via Chuffed.org, a crowdfunding website designed for non-profit and social enterprise projects. The funding will directly contribute to the employment and livelihoods of the Kulung. The crew will be staying in local teahouses (guesthouses), hiring local porters and guides at fair wages and purchasing meals and supplies in local villages, which in turn, will provide an income and much-needed investment for the communities.
“Carrying Everest” project donations to https://chuffed.org/project/carrying-everest
Images by Heema Rai