K2 is perhaps the harshest mountain on Earth. Every year, ambitious climbers travel from across the globe for a chance to conquer these dangers. They derive great value and accomplishment from conquering the summit of this monstrous mountain. K2 and the Invisible Footmen explores the sacrifices of the unknown mountaineers - the porters who are paid measly wages to accompany and assist these foreign climbers on their perilous journeys.
The porters are typically indigenous to the region between Pakistan and China. "Our helplessness brings us here," admits one Pakistani porter. The filmmakers embed themselves in their world. We witness their dire living conditions, the children they struggle to feed and house, and the limited opportunities afforded to them.
Frequently, travelers will employ these indigenous porters because their labor is cheaper to procure than other expedition guides. Many times, they carry out the most dangerous duties on the climb. Their backs are strapped with the massive weight of supplies.
At this point, many of them know the mountain like the back of their hand. But there are still an incalculable number of risks involved in their work. One wrong move or an episode of foul weather can result in certain death. In many cases, it has.
There is discontent among the men, and they have considered forming a collective demand for higher wages. Occasionally, they go on strike to little effect. Their resolve dissipates when faced with the notion of unemployment.
The environment might be deadly, but it's also majestic. The film captures the immaculate white slopes and snow-capped peaks with appropriate grandiosity. In contrast, we are also made to experience K2 from the porters' perspectives. We are made to feel their every labored breath, delicate step, and close call. At a distant, the mountain might exude an aura of serenity and grandeur. But it's a different experience when you're placed in the belly of the beast.
K2 and the Invisible Footmen is a moving and eye-opening account of common people who are not compelled to climb K2 out of some sense of exotic adventure or grand ambition. They do it because their lives depend on it.
Directed by: Iara Lee