High Ground

Although the premise of this 2012 Seattle International Film Festival selection is the spiritual and emotional healing effects of a trek up a mountain in the Himalaya's, this is really a lengthy documentary about the horrors of war, cloaked as a grueling endurance test for everyone.

We become acquainted with each volunteer for this trip: other than a mother whose son died in Iraq, every single one is scarred in some way by his or her deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Several are missing a foot or a leg, two are blind, many are suffering from TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Each is introduced with a current on-camera interview, augmented with photos of their original military deployment, then a description of the event that changed their lives, followed by what they hope to gain by accepting this challenge.

Each veteran looks to me like he or she was selected by Central Casting: they are photogenic, articulate, humorous, and coping to the best of their ability. Of course each of us ended up with a favorite, mine being that always-grinning long-haired dude missing his lower leg. He was upbeat, wide-eyed and (profanely) outspoken in his admiration for the mountain.

From my condo in the city, it looks like they all have a screw loose; I would NEVER climb something so daunting. My acrophobia was in over- drive just to screen this thing!

Bottom line: I have nothing but respect for individuals like these who summon up the courage and the sheer physical stick-to-it-tiveness that makes a climb like this so satisfying. (I couldn't help but dread their climb back down...I always think that is actually riskier.) In addition, I salute the small army of Sherpas who remain off camera but make this outing possible.