Himalaya | Chicago Reader

Himalaya

104 minutes

Like all filmed dramas, though far more profoundly than most, this 1999 feature shows the fictional experiences of characters in a story while implying the real experiences of a cast on one side of the camera and a crew on the other. Director Eric Valli, a documentarian who'd lived in the Dolpo region of Nepal for 20 years when he began filming this drama there in 1997, wrote the screenplay with Olivier Dazat in collaboration with several of the actors; most of the cast are local nonprofessionals. An old chief whose son has just died competes with a much younger man to retain respect and a position of leadership in their village. Their dispute concerns when and how, given the treacherous terrain and weather conditions, to lead a caravan of yaks from the plateaus of northern Tibet to the southern lowlands, where the salt they carry will be sold for grain. It's a matter of life and death, and it's played out in a journey that was surely as laborious and dangerous for the “characters” as it was for the grips. In Tibetan with subtitles.

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