“K2 and the Invisible Footmen” begins with words on the screen: “This film was made possible by the collaboration of K2 porters who generously opened their hearts and homes to us.” This is a good film for the way it pays respect to the porters who carry most of the stuff on these treks.
That compliment, however, cuts both ways because the way it pays respect still says much about -- what shall I say -- the dualities, the divides that persist in modern culture.
Only Mount Everest (29,029) is higher than K2 (28,251). Known as “Savage Mountain,” about 25% die who attempt K2. The filmmakers photograph the awesome Karakoram mountain range well. They capture the effort and challenge well. But it is the focus on the porters that distinguishes the film. There’s no quantification, by the way, about the percentage of porters who die or how deadly the trekking is below the 18-thousand-foot-high base camp.
Most simply summarized, illiterate men wearing sandals or sneakers carry 55 to 75 pounds of stuff across many days of precarious terrain, except when they are expected to carry more. They don’t feel they have a choice but to do this dangerous work.
These low paid workers sing and joke. Stoically, they carry on. They support their typically large families. It is fair to say that this documentary isn’t about whether they are very well employed by remote Pakistani standards. It is fair to say that this documentary has made them more visible.