Christy Collins

Thoughts on books, films, writing and life



Settling in

I’ve now been at Tenjinyama Art Studio for two weeks. I have a firm handle on which pair of shoes are best for tackling the snow and now, rather quickly it seems, everything is beginning to thaw. Tomorrow night I’m headed south to Kansai to see the cherry blossoms and meet up with Mr K for a week; when I get back I’m sure the park will look quite different.

I’ve got into a fairly regular rhythm of writing in the mornings and venturing out into the world in the afternoon, whether just for groceries or to see a museum or to walk around the city. In the evenings I’m either relaxing with the other artists here, reading or returning to the writing. I feel very lucky to be able to organize my time completely around my writing.

I had also hoped to be plunging in to Japanese film but this is proving challenging logistically without speaking the language. Last night I signed up to the local Netflix but almost nothing there has English subtitles. I may have to wait until I’m home to do this part of the work. My local library has a good selection of Japanese film, and Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) usually has a strong Asian line up, so this will be a good project for the winter months on my return.


Film review: Sherpa

When tourists with dreams of summiting Mount Everest finally reach the peak, they have not made it there alone.

For every expedition up Everest a team of Nepalese locals, known as sherpas often cover the same ground several times, carrying supplies, tents, food and emergency equipment through perilous ice falls in order to keep tourists safe and comfortable. The risks the sherpas take are far greater than those the foreigners take and the credit they receive is minimal.

Australian director Jennifer Peedom contrasts the sherpas’ Buddhist religion and their respect for the mountain with the foreigners’ dreams of proving themselves against nature and ‘conquering’ the mountain.

The Buddhist ceremony held to request permission to climb, is more than a taste of local colour for the tourists. It is an acknowledgement and reminder of the peril everyone who climbs Everest takes on, whether they are climbing in order to achieve a life long dream, or to feed their families in the villages below.

When the 2014 climbing season opened with a disaster that claimed the lives of 16 sherpas, Peedom’s team were on hand to record how the power dynamics between the tourists, sherpas, the Nepalese government, and the foreign expedition leaders played out in an arena which had already begun to show signs of tension the previous year.

Peedom shapes her material into a satisfying narrative that opens up the experience of the sherpas who serve the expeditions, and the lives and concerns of their families. The film brings to life the sherpas’ quest for greater respect for the sacredness of the mountain, the lost lives of their peers and for safer conditions and better treatment when, inevitably, people lose their lives in the service of Nepal’s tourism industry and the dreams of tourists from around the world.

Sherpa’s cinematography is unsurprisingly full of grandeur with reminders of the smallness of humans in this treacherous landscape. The Buddhist prayer flags add colour and the warm interiors of the family homes create a welcome contrast to the unforgiving mountain-scapes. Swelling violin music serves to reinforce the massive size of the landscape and the power of the environment.

Sherpa is an eye-opening look at the Everest expeditions from a different and important angle. It is essential viewing for anyone who dreams of one day conquering Everest and a good reminder for all of us who travel to countries less well off than our own to bear in mind the humanity of those who serve us there.

I watched Sherpa as part of the “52 films by women” challenge which you can sign up for here.

Originally published by Togatus

52 Films by Women

We are coming up on 1/4 of the way through the year and it’s a good time to take stock of progress on things we’ve committed to for 2016. For me this includes a pledge to watch 52 films directed by women (I tweet about them using the hashtag #52filmsbywomen) and to read, a rather modest, four books by Australian women, reviewing three of them. The books are proving relatively easy – there’s an abundance of great books that fit the bill and I’ve already read Gap by Rebecca Jessen and The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead as well as the two books I’ve reviewed on this site Leap and The Submerged Cathedral and I have many, many more on my To Be Read (TBR) list – most of which are already on my bookshelf.

But the films are proving more challenging. It’s not that there aren’t many films directed by women but more that they form a much smaller percentage of the films out there than one might expect. No doubt that’s the point of the challenge in the first place. So, even if 52 films seems a bit much, I encourage you to have a think about who is getting to head up the film projects you’re consuming. And if you are looking for something to see at the cinema right now, you could do worse than check out the stunning SHERPA directed by Australian Jennifer Peedom. My full review is forthcoming on the Togatus website but in the meantime I would certainly recommend it, especially if you’ve ever thought of trying to climb Everest.

Sleeping with Other People – film review

Now out in cinemas, I saw Sleeping with Other People at the Melbourne International Film Festival and reviewed it for MIFF here.

It’s a fun film with some good line-by-line comedy. My recommendation: best enjoyed after a glass of wine with friends.

Vertical Cinema – interview

The monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey and a scientific paper provided the inspiration for Dutch artist and filmmaker Joost Rekveld’s experimental Vertical Cinema film #43 – one of the ten experimental vertical films showing at Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) this year.

Read the interview:

1001 Grams – film review

Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer’s subtle romance 1001 Grams is a wry reflection on life, ageing parents and the value of things that can’t be measured.

Seymour: An introduction – film review

Ethan Hawke’s portrait of the former concert pianist Seymour Bernstein is a touching tribute to the transformative power of a great teacher.

Finders Keepers – film review

This engaging oddball tale is a study of obsession as a human foot found in a barbecue sparks a bizarre custody battle.

Neon – film review

Lawrence Johnston’s latest documentary is a loving tribute to a disappearing art form and a feast of retro Americana.

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