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“Mount Everest: Into the Death Zone” Documentary Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Sep 4th, 2020


Mount Everest: Into the Death Zone is a 2016 documentary by The Fifth Estate, a Canadian news magazine. The documentary tells the story of a Canadian that climbed Mount Everest and later on died due to complications caused by the climb (The Fifth Estate, 00:0:01-00:43:50). The film received both positive and negative responses from viewers. This paper provides a review of the film in terms of the cinematography and the storytelling techniques used. The paper proposes that while the cinematography approaches used are admirable, the storytelling techniques used were biased. It can be argued that the bias arises from the fact that the lady that died was a Canadian. Indeed, the news magazine is meant to tell the story without taking sides. However, it is clear that the reporter, Bob McKeown, picked a side while telling the story. The story does not have one clear theme. However, one can argue that the overlying theme is money. Other sub-themes that can be deduced from the documentary include self-determination, live and death, risk, and self-preservation.

Plot Summary

The documentary follows the final hours of Shriya Shah-Klorfine, a Canadian national who climbed Mount Everest. The young energetic and married woman had never climbed a mountain before. She, however, still was determined to make it to the top of the mountain and had acquired the services of an agency to help her reach her goal. The climb had its challenges but her determination and passion saw her reach the top of the mountain. Despite the agonizing climb, Shriya made it to an infamous part of the mountain, the “Death Zone”. Others, traveling with her, were left behind due to fear and fatigue and did not make it to the “Death Zone”. Additionally, on her journey down, she was left behind as she became paralyzed due to the extreme cold (The Fifth Estate, 00:31.29). Indeed, Shriya had seen the warning signs and had been cautioned by experienced Sherpas, but she was determined to get to the “Death Zone”. Despite her success, things start going wrong at this point.


The cinematography used is average but sufficient in regard to similar documentaries. The Fifth Estate relied on pictures of Shriya and those of former climbers to tell her story. Additionally, the news magazine uses generic shots of Mount Everest to show the different peaks, people walking up and down, and the climate of the place. The film goes further and uses real videos of Shriya during her journey. Most importantly, the documentary incorporates videos captured by phones of Shriya’s body being rescued after ten days in the “Death Zone”. The voice and sound in the film are well done. It is important to note, however, that since much of the story is told by family and Sherpas, a good number of the shots were done in a green room. Thus, getting quality sound and lighting was not a challenge for the producers. Overall, the film is able to give the viewer a wholesome feel of what happened to Shriya. This is done through the use of real videos shot by Sherpas during Shriya’s climb and descend, and also pictures that had been captured.


There are various things that affect the interpretation of the film. One is the themes that have been highlighted. Through the subject matters, the viewer can tell of Shriya’s determination. However, the same topics have focused the blame on the company that offered Shriya the opportunity to climb Everest. By doing so, the producer pulls attention to Shriya’s own mistakes during the climb. For instance, she had no experience and should not have been climbing the mountain in the first place. Also, by fully blaming a startup company, the producer shines more light on the fact that Shriya chose the startup as the more experienced companies would not have allowed her to climb the mountain with no climbing experience. The narrative allows the viewer to understand the type of person Shriya was, and what drove her to climb Mount Everest. Additionally, through the narrative, the viewer can understand that many elements lead to the death of Shriya. Blame cannot be placed on one person or entity. Shriya received less oxygen, meaning she was suffocating on her way down. Due to her lack of experience, she could not tell that the oxygen she had received would run out before she reached down.


The documentary Mount Everest: Into the Death Zone, is worth watching as it tells the story of a determined and endearing woman, Shriya Shah-Klorfine. Her determination saw her climb Mount Everest without any prior climbing experience. However, the film is also worth watching as it shows how many people lose their lives climbing the mountain, without proper preparation. As one watches the film, one cannot help but note that many climbers passed by Shriya’s body, still heading up the mountain. To some extent, one can argue that it is expected that some people who climb the mountain will not come back down alive. The film captures emotions, while at the same time, will shock the viewer on the extremes human beings are capable and determined to go, albeit being dangerous.

Work Cited

. YouTube, uploaded by The Fifth Estate, 2016. Web.

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