Located on the border between Pakistan and China, K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth. For many climbers, it is an even greater prize than Everest, with limited routes, a steeper ascent, and a harder push to its summit. Nicknamed the ‘Savage Mountain,’ K2’s peak juts unprotected into the atmosphere, regularly exposing climbers and porters to life-threatening weather conditions. Despite being paid at rates far below those received by international expedition leaders, such porters—whether they provide critical supplies to expedition base camps or take on higher-altitude tasks in support of ascending climbers—do some of the most difficult and dangerous work and these efforts make them worthy of recognition as the true heroes of mountaineering.
In K2 And The Invisible Footmen, filmmaker Iara Lee and team chronicle the lives of both Pakistani porters and Nepalese Sherpas. The film also follows the first official all-Pakistani climbing team, made up of former porters, who successfully summited in 2014, in celebration of K2s 60th anniversary. Amid breathtaking scenery, the film depicts the everyday sacrifices of porters and the courage of those indigenous climbers who choose to return to scale K2 in spite of past tragedies. In their striving to perfect their craft, these mountaineers provide a fresh look into the cultures and national traditions of Pakistan, a country typically portrayed in the foreign media as merely a land of conflict and sectarian strife.
Iara Lee, a Brazilian of Korean descent, is an activist, filmmaker, and director of the Cultures of Resistance Network, an organization that promotes global solidarity, supports efforts to secure peace and social justice, and brings together change-makers from around the world. As a filmmaker, Iara has released several full-length documentaries and dozens of short films over the past decade. Her current project is a documentary entitled Burkinabé Rising, which showcases creative nonviolent resistance in Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in West Africa.
In 2015, Iara completed two documentaries: K2 And The Invisible Footmen and Life Is Waiting: Referendum And Resistance In Western Sahara. In 2013, Iara made a short film titled The Kalasha And The Crescent, which chronicles how this indigenous minority in northern Pakistan responded to the challenges facing their culture. In 2012, she released a documentary called THE SUFFERING GRASSES: When Elephants Fight, It Is The Grass That Suffers, which examines the Syrian conflict through the humanity of the civilians who have been killed, abused, and displaced to the squalor of refugee camps. In 2010, she released the feature-length documentary Cultures Of Resistance, which explores how creative action contributes to conflict prevention and resolution.
In May 2010, Iara was a passenger on the MV Mavi Marmara, a vessel in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked in international waters by the Israeli navy, leading to the murder of nine humanitarian aid workers. Among the many people who recorded the events on that ship, her crew was the only one to successfully hide and retain most of the raid footage, which she later released to the world after a screening at the United Nations. From 1984 to 1989, Iara was the producer of the Sao Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil. From 1989 to 2003, she was based in New York City, where she ran the mixed-media company Caipirinha Productions, created to explore the synergy of different art forms, such as film, music, architecture, and poetry. Under that banner, Iara directed short and feature-length documentaries including Synthetic Pleasures, Modulations, Architettura, and Beneath the Borqa.