The Wall of Shadows


About film

In remote Eastern Nepal, there is a holy mountain called Kumbhakarna. Its peak is home to gods and demons. No man can touch its slopes and it is believed that a Sherpa who dares set foot on the mountain, will die. One family is ready to break the taboo…

Premiered at HotDocs documentary film festival, Toronto,Canada. European premiere at Millenium Docs Against Gravity film festival, Warsaw, Poland.

Kumbhakarna (aka Jannu) is a Himalayan peak (7710m) famous for its 3000m unclimbed east face, one of the most difficult challenges in modern alpinism.  The Westerners’ and local people’s attitude to the mountain is a world apart.

At the foot of Kumbhakarna at 4000m (asl) lies a small Sherpa village Kambachen. There are just 30 houses and in one of them lives Ngada Sherpa and his family. Ngada is born and bred in the mountains. He is the best high-altitude porter in the area: he carries equipment and sets the ropes for alpinists up to the summits, very often risking his life with little in return. He has climbed nine times Everest, two times Kanchenjunga. His wife, Jomdoe Sherpa works as a porter as well, carrying heavy loads on steep, icy trails to base camps. They have a son, 16-year-old Dawa.

The life in the Himalayas at this altitude is a struggle for survival. Despite the fact that for a decade Ngada has worked with international expeditions, his family lives on the edge of poverty. When the father works in the mountains, his wife and son, who just completed his primary school, work in the fields planting and harvesting potatoes. Dawa dreams of becoming a doctor, but his family cannot afford his further education.

One day Ngada is offered work on an expedition to the forbidden Kumbhakarna. Taking part is against his faith and lamas’ warnings. The stakes are high. If Ngada agrees, he will earn big money, much more than on other expeditions, and pay for first two years of Dawa’s medical school in Kathmandu.

In February 2019 the expedition of the world-class alpinists starts on Jannu with the aim to conquer the unclimbed wall of the mountain. Team consists of: Marcin Tomaszewski, one of the most prolific Polish climbers and two eminent Russian alpinists:  Dmitry Golovchenko and Sergey Nilov, the 2-time recipients of the climbing Oscar: Piolet d’Or. The Sherpa family accompanies the expedition. The helicopter lands in the village and the climbers are greeted by Ngada and Dawa, while Jomdoe is praying to Dalai Lama in their hut. The massive snowfall they endure is the first messenger of mounting troubles. Will Gods of Kumbhakarna forgive the people for their insolence ?

S.Nilov, at 6750m, ph.D.Golovchenko
Ngada Sherpa
Ngada Sherpa with Dawa
Dawa Sherpa
Jomdoe Sherpa
hanging camp 6300m, before the avalanche, ph d.golovchenko
Marcin Tomaszewski
BC, Yalung glacier
spindrift avalanches ca.7000m asl
Piotr Rosolowski
retreat, Youth glacier
S.Nilov on last pitches before the ridge, well above 7000m asll
climbers+director ;-)
Dima at 7300m
f.l S. Nilov, D.Golovchenko
zosia and eliza finding climbers on Yamatari Glacier
d.golovchenko, k.partridge
Vertical (FR)


media links

film trailer

Production: Braidmade Films (PL), Corso Film (Germany), TILT Production (CHE) and  Vertical Vision Film Studio (PL); Funding: Polish Film Institute, MFG Baden-Württemberg, Federal Office of Culture (FOC), Zürcher Filmstiftung, Fondation Suisa , ZDF/ARTE, Telewizja Polska SA.; Written by Eliza Kubarska and Piotr Rosołowski, Directed by Eliza Kubarska , Camera Piotr Rosołowski, Second Camera and Drone Keith Partridge, Editing Barbara Toennieshen, Sound Zofia Moruś and Franciszek Kozłowski, Music Marcel Vaid, Producer Monika Braid, Coproducers Umit Uludağ and Kaspar Winkler

Specification: Colour, 4K, Aspect ratio: DCP Flat (1:1.85) and TV 16:9, Sound 5.1. and 2.0 Formats available: DCP, Quicktime Apple ProRes H264 and HQ4444   Duration: 94 mins and 52 mins (TV)  Language versions available: English, Polish, German, French (TBC)

Distribution: Rise and Shine World Sales (world-wide, all media), contact:; Vinca Film (Switzerland, all media); Against Gravity (Poland, all media)



"This year's mountain movie at HotDocs stands mighty high", ..."moments of breathtaking awe on par with Free Solo.... " .

Pat Mullen (POV magazine)

Visually powerful as well as calm and multi-layered film... Revealing story of the clash between two different worlds...  Discreet but convincing call for humility.

walter gasperi (

The Wall of Shadows...something really beautiful, really captivating...

top 5 picks - hotDocS 2020

Best Polish Film

XXV Ladek Zdroj Mountain festival

Audience Award - Silesian voivodeship

XvII Millenium Docs against gravity Festival

Film Elizy Kubarskiej przywołuje majestat gór w zapierających dech w piersiach obrazach, ale także zwraca uwagę na problemy zglobalizowanego świata, w którym tradycja i duchowość zanikają.

Irene Genhart, Cineman (sui)

...contains impressive depictions of nature...conflict between east and west, rich and poor. ...filmed in very demanding circumstances, and the result is extraordinary. The winner of Documentaire Extraordinaire 2020 is The Wall of Shadows.

Bergen int. Film Festival JURY (NOrway)

[/slide] outstandingly filmed, mystical work that contrasts the fate of the local Sherpas with the ambitions of western mountaineers.

Michael Meyns (

The Wall of Shadows works like thriller... Kubarska creates great scenes, with uttermost respect toward the mountains.

Michael Kuratli (