The Wall of Shadows takes the viewer on a trip to the breathtaking views of the Himalayas, into the midst of the Sherpa, living in the shadow of the mountain Kumbhakarna. At the film’s centre is a family of three, who must choose between their traditions and sorely needed money, when three western mountain climbers want their help climbing the holy mountain.
The family’s son Dawa dreams of being a doctor, but his father, a mountain guide, wants him to follow in his footsteps. The mother encourages her son to follow his dreams, though gathering the money required for his education is not easy. Three mountain climbers arrive to the village, offering the family a tempting but conflicting opportunity to earn money by helping them climb Kumbhakarna’s east wall, a technically difficult route, which no one has managed to climb before.
According to local belief, God lives on Kumbhakarna, and the holy mountain should be left alone. The choice to defy tradition is not easy for the family. In the film, folklore about the power of Kumbhakarna is intertwined with images of the mountain slopes, framing the story and the conflict at its centre.
Instead of focusing on the western mountaineers, the director Eliza Kubarska, herself an accomplished climber, focuses on the Sherpas living in the mountains, and their views on the culture of mountain climbing. The film takes its time to showcase the family’s everyday life and environment, in which the intruding western climbers appear as fish out of water. Despite the wonders of the mountain imagery, the true heart of the film becomes the little family at its centre.