Friday, December 05, 2008

Film - Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef

Himalaya is a beautiful film is set in the Himalaya Mountains of Nepal. The landscape and the traditional life of the people are as crucial to the film as the plot and characters.

Here is a plot summary from Rotten Tomatoes:
It is caravan time in Dolpo, high in the Himalayas of Nepal. The villagers must trek for days across the mountains with laden yaks to trade their salt for grain. But when Karma (Gurgon Kyap) returns to the village with the body of Lhakpa, leader of the caravan and son of the old chief Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup), the new chief blames Karma for the death, and will not allow him to lead in Lhakpa's place. Though Tinle's grandson, Tserin (Karma Wangiel), is far too young to lead the tribe, Tinle simply renames him Passang--a chief's name--and prepares him to lead the caravan. Karma challenges Tinle, threatening to take away the yaks, Lhakpa's widow Pema (Lhapka Tsamchoe), and Passang before the day that the caravan begins. Old Tinle in turn visits the monastery to gather his son, Norbou (Karma Tenzing Nyima Lama), a frescoe-painting monk, to join him on the caravan. But Norbou refuses to join his father, and Tinle returns to the village to discover that Karma has left early, taking most of the caravaneers with him. Tinle, Pema, Passang, the late-arriving Norbou, and the old men of the village leave on the scheduled day, and leading their own caravan in an effort to end the rivalry that threatens every resident of Dolpo.
The real friction in this movie is a clash of generations -- the old ways, based in astrology and oracles, and the new generation, whose "spokesperson" is a man of reason and does not believe in the oracles.

The conflict between Karma and Tinle is also familial, with reference to a previous conflict between the two families. One gets the sense as well that Karma is in love with Pema, the wife of his dead friend and Tinle's son.

The question in this film is whether or not the old ways hold up when confronted with reason. The answers are not simple, and the film deals with the subtlety of this issue quite well.

Here is the official trailer:

As a great companion film, I'd highly recommend The Saltmen of Tibet, a documentary about the annual pilgrimage for salt in Tibet, an essential nutrient for survival in the Plateau.

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