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High in the Dolpo, in the NW Himalayas, a small community divides dramatically after the accidental death of the chiefís son on a mountain outing. Chief Tinle (Thilen Lhondup) is elderly but hardly senile, and he refuses to believe it was an accident. He also refuses to forgive the young man who brought his sonís body home, Karma (Gurgon Kyap), who is the logical heir to the Chief Ė who also who inherits the young widow, Pema (Lhapka Tsamchoe). In this mood of discord, Tinle and Karma disgaree on the perfect time to take their herd of yaks and sacks of salt (to trade for grain) on the traditional route across the treacherous mountains. The early winter storms can devastate the community on its journey. Karmaís youthful revolutionary spirit defies the old manís traditional ways.

"While it is difficult to tell what level of performance Eric Valli elicits from this cast due to the strangeness of the language and distancing effect of subtitles, the overall impact is totally credible. This is no doubt boosted by the extraordinary setting and the even more extraordinary feat of capturing the story and the setting so handsomely on film. And itís not all beautiful vistas of proud mountains; there is pain, danger and death lurking in every frame. The music haunts me, especially the vocal refrain of the central theme. A spectacular adventure and generation-gap drama on the one hand and a fierce docu-drama on the other, Himalaya is a high, full of sheer amazement value."
Andrew L. Urban

"Described by the writer/director as a Tibetan western, Himalaya is an extraordinary cinematic experience, taking us high above the clouds into a world that lies somewhere between the one we know and the Shangri-La that is paradise. It's a harsh, isolated existence that relies on strength of mind as well as body, and in this astounding tale inspired by a yakpa (cowboy leader) and a Lama (monk), we are humbled. How this film was ever made in these rugged conditions at the top of the world, where the dust is as thick as fog and the snow is knee deep, is a marvel. Taking nine long months to shoot, Himalaya is unique in that the people of the mountains, who have never seen a camera, play their own characters in a dramatic setting, giving an insight into the very essence of their existence. It's almost a spiritual experience, hearing Bruno Coulais' haunting chant-like music score, and being privy to a glimpse inside an unknown solitary world. The faces are weather beaten and we enter a world filled with rituals, superstitions and traditions. The stars (in the sky) dictate when the caravan of yaks will transport the salt, which means survival. The issues are that of life and death and the extreme beauty of Nepal is exposed in glorious wide screen. The darkness of the living conditions is contrasted by the ornate, colourful jewellery and bright demeanour worn by the people. The yaks are magnificent beasts, and observing a jet black yak, complete with winter coat trudging over blinding white snow is a breathtaking experience. Himalaya is an inspiring cinematic feast and will haunt you forever. For me, beyond nature's phenomenal showcase and the human story, the notion of challenge is one that stays with me: 'When two paths open up before you, choose the hardest one.'"
Louise Keller

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CAST: Thilen Lhondup, Lhapka Tsamchoe, Gurgon Kyap, Karma Tensing Nyima Lama, Karma Wangiel, Jampa Kalsang Tamang

PRODUCERS: Jacques Perrin, Christopher Barratier

DIRECTOR: Eric Valli

SCRIPT: Eric Valli & Olivier Dazat (with collaboration of Jean-Claude Guillebaud, Louis Gardel, Nathalie Azoulai, Jacques Perrin; idea from Eric Valli)

CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Eric Guichard AFC, Jean-Paul Meurisse

EDITOR: Marie-Josephine Yoyette

MUSIC: Bruno Coulais

SET DESIGNER: Jerome Krowicki
SPECIAL EFFECTS: Jean-Marc Mouligne

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2000


VIDEO RELEASE: July 18, 2001

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