Himalaya

A stunning achievement in location cinematography. French writer-director Eric Valli's mile-high adventure is so awe-inspiringly beautiful, you might not notice that the story and its characters are nearly as thin as the Himalayan air. Set in the northwestern Nepalese region of the Himalayas, the film offers a fascinating look at the Dolpopa, a tribal people...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A stunning achievement in location cinematography. French writer-director Eric Valli's mile-high adventure is so awe-inspiringly beautiful, you might not notice that the story and its characters are nearly as thin as the Himalayan air. Set in the northwestern Nepalese region of the Himalayas, the film offers a fascinating look at the Dolpopa, a tribal people whose survival depends on the yak caravans that carry salt they collect from the lake beds in the north to the southern lowlands, where it's exchanged for grain. The treks are long and, depending on the weather and the route chosen, often very dangerous. As the film opens, a caravan led by young Karma (Gurgon Kyap) returns with some bad news: Lhakpa, the eldest son of Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup), a venerable tribe chieftain, is dead, killed when the shortcut he insisted on taking lead only to his death. The village mourns the loss, but Tinle suspects the worst: He accuses Karma of causing Lhakpa's death in order to usurp his place as tribal chief and the leader of the caravans. When the time comes to travel south to the "land of grain," the aged and ailing Tinle announces that he and his inexperienced younger son, Norbou (Karma Tenzing Nyima), a lama who's spent most of his life in a monastery, will lead the caravan. Karma, who no longer trusts the old man's judgment, assembles the remaining villagers and their yaks, and prepares for an early departure while the weather still holds. The ever traditional Tinle, however, awaits the mystical word from the lamas (if he leaves too early, superstitious Tinle fears, he'll be plagued by demons) before he strikes out — a delay that could prove fatal. What follows is a breathtaking trek across one of the most inaccessible regions of the world, a place few people — let alone movie cameras — have ever seen. (One rare exception is Ulrich Koch's superb 1997 documentary on the same subject, THE SALTMEN OF TIBET.) Valli, whose previous work includes documentary films and reportage for such publications as National Geographic and Geo, brings an ethnographer's eye for detail to a plot that amounts to little more than the good old generation gap. Valli and his team of intrepid cinematographers capture not only the awe-inspiring landscape, but the sights and sounds of the people who make their home in the rafters of the world. (In Tibetan, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A stunning achievement in location cinematography. French writer-director Eric Valli's mile-high adventure is so awe-inspiringly beautiful, you might not notice that the story and its characters are nearly as thin as the Himalayan air. Set in the northwest… (more)

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