Blindsight

Director: Lucy Walker
Year: 2006
Country: UK
Running time: 104 mins
UK
Photography: Petr Cikhart, Keith Partridge, Michael Brown
Editor: Sebastian Duthy
Music: Nitin Sawhney
In Tibetan, English and German, with English subtitles

Festivals: Toronto, London 2006; Berlin, SXSW 2007
Sabriye Tenberken runs a school for blind children in Lhasa, Tibet. In 2001, [she] wrote to visually impaired mountain-climber Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to climb Mt Everest, inviting him to visit her school. In 2004, he arrives with an entourage of helpers, determined to get six of Tenberken’s pupils – Sonam Bhumtso, Gyenshen, Dachung, Kyila, Tenzin, and Tashi Pasang – to the top of Mt Everest’s 23,000-foot neighbour, Lhakpa Ri. As the party climbs higher and struggles with altitude sickness, the weather and yak problems, deep-seated differences of attitude start to emerge. For Tenberken and [her partner] Kronenberg, and to a certain extent the Tibetans themselves, it’s the journey that matters, not gaining the top. But for Weihenmayer and his competitive-minded cohorts, anything less than total commitment spells failure. The clash between them evokes larger oppositions, between Europeans vs Americans, educationalists vs sportsmen, and so on, with the kids caught in the middle.” — Leslie Felperin, Variety