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Eric Valli F/CH/UK/Nepal 1999 103'

In a far-flung village in the Dolpo, in the North-Western Himalayas, at an altitude of five thousand meters, Tinle, a charismatic old chieftain, whose eldest son has just died, refuses to allow the young Karma to lead the yak caravan.

"When you see the snowstorm, it is a real snowstorm. It was in front of the camera and behind the camera. For nine months, we were on the trail of the real caravan. What you see on the screen is what we also experienced as filmmakers."
Eric Valli

Karma goes against the oracles and Tinle's anger: before the ritual date he leads the caravan away followed by the young men from the village. On the day fixed by the gods Tinle, assisted by his second son Norbu the Lama, his grandson and his old companions decides against all reason to set off in his turn. Then the ancestral duel between man and mountain begins.

The only earthly wealth of the sturdy peasants who live in the village are the salt deposits of Upper Tibet, salt which they extract and swap each year for grain, far, very far, beyond the vast mountains, in the lower Nepalese valleys. This hazardous annual crossing tests the courage of one and all and transforms these simple peasants into heroic caravan drivers. Through difficult trails where each step taken could be fatal, men, women and children accompany huge herds of yaks. During weeks and even months, they will struggle against the cold, harsh winds and avalanches- all the traps of a violent and excessive nature.

"Because it was essential for the story to be authentic, the writing was done in collaboration with Tinlé, Norbou and the other characters in the film. I speak of characters rather than actors since for the most part, they had no experience in front of a camera and play their proper roles. All of the characters could have been part of a Jack London or Joseph Conrad book. This film is a western, a Tibetan western, a timeless universal saga that tells the story of power, pride and courage."
Eric Valli

"I believe that more yak movies would be a great thing. Those wooly, horned beasts of burden look a lot stranger than anything George Lucas has cooked up since the TAUN TRANS, and I could watch them lumber down mountain inclines for hours."

"What sets this film apart is its realism. Director Valli has spent much of the last two decades in Nepal, and his love and respect for the people and the land is apparent. He has a gift for translating the visual beauty of the region to the screen."
Jacquelin Sonderling, Experience Asia

"Turning his documentary experience to great advantage, Valli is a sympathetic and perceptive observer of Tibetan society, achieving an intimacy with his cast and a grasp of traditional culture unfamiliar to higher-budget features. The non-professional actors and small crew of 15 worked without movie lighting or special effects, relying on the authenticity of the cast and spectacular mountain locations to attain the film's striking visual lyricism."
Justin Lowe, Asian Week

"Valli's ambition is frozen into every frame and it's apparent that he intended to create a work that, as he stated, would form "a timeless saga that tells a story of power, pride and glory". With a beginner's courage and enthusiasm he's just about succeeded."
Gavin Collinson, BBC

"These days, with films largely seeming to follow a pattern of constant disappointment, Himalaya comes as a breath of air, fresh as the mountains on which the movie is set. Not to say that you'll be seeing anything incredibly innovative, as far as actual filmmaking goes, but HIMALAYA delivers a simple but satisfying plot and effective acting, integrated with masterful, grandiose cinematography and musical score. Together, they provide the sort of the exhilaration of an IMAX documentary combined with the gentle emotionalism characteristic of many foreign films."
Caroline M. Saffer, John Hopkins Newsletter