Projections - Movie Reviews



After taking in the striking vistas in Himalaya it's no wonder that director Eric Valli, a native of France, transplanted to Nepal since 1983, is able to stimulate the ocular nerve with his sense of Tibetan culture.

He centers his character-driven feature shot in 1997 and an Academy nominated foreign film released in 1999 (now distributed in the US) in the rugged Dolpo region of Nepal.  The natural beauty of this environment with its vast snowy mountains defies the existence of human society and its growth throughout time.

A village protected by a barrier of rocks located on a promontory set over a sizable valley and below a wheat field is a view.  The jittery, elder sage Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup) tells grandson Tsering (Kama Wangiel) that after three months the villagers will have used up the harvest sown from the field.

A yak caravan which contains the vital commodity of salt is what a tribal head is leading as Tinle eagerly awaits his son on route with the leader.

Tinle is overcome with pain as the old man is quite outgoing when he sees his son deceased on a  yak.  And he believes that Karma (Gurgon Kyap), who is the next in command for the caravan, is the reason for his son's sudden passing.

But Karma was very close to Tinle's cherished offspring and the caravan team substantiates Karma's opinion that the son hastily made a maneuver that isolated him from Karma and the others.

What is Tinle's mourning becomes determined anger as he has to take that iodized yak caravan down the mountain by foot that could last over three weeks to trade it for grain.

Valli has recruited those he has encountered and lived with in Nepal and it makes for some involving portraits that gives Himalaya some poignant depth beyond its sheer ethnicity.  The director, noteworthy for his photographic wonders in publications like National Geographic and Life, is like a knighted citizen of Nepal as he has made an impact with many insightful books on the country mainly known for it's connection with Mt. Everest.

Lhondup is witty and feral and feels comforted by his friend shooting as his performance is well-balanced by Kyap's dashing presence from another amateur thespian.  As the grandson's mother and widow Pema, Tsamchoe, luminous in Seven Years In Tibet, makes her role as the inevitable love interest enticing for Karma.

If this European-backed production helmed by a Frenchman fails to tell a gripping story, the visually vibrant journey treads intimately through tradition finally reaching lyrical, if moving cinematic highs as Himalaya lowers its altitude in parallel and attitude toward sensibility before the brutality of winter.


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