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Himalaya (l'enfance d'un chef) (1999)

In a magnificent film that manages to combine elements of Shakespeare and a National Geographic special, Eric Valli tells the story of Tinle, the leader of a Nepalese village, who upon the death of his son (and presumed successor) engages in a power struggle with Karma, a young rebel against tradition. Karma's family has some sin their past, which I don't think is ever explained, so Tinle is distrustful of him anyway, but this bad blood is
only exacerbated because Karma was on the salt gathering trip where his son died.  Of Tinle's other sons, one is too young, Tsering, and the other is a Buddhist monk, Norbou, so neither can take over for him.  Instead, Tinle determines to lead the caravan of yaks on the annual salt-trading trek himself, despite his advancing years.  Karma, defying the omen-reading of the village's lamas, gathers some of the younger men and leads them and the yaks off with Tinle and a motley party, including both sons, in hot (or bitterly cold) pursuit.

Mr. Valli has spent close to two decades photographing in the Dolpo region of Nepal (for National Geographic it is no surprise to learn) and
for this film he used mostly local non-actors.  He's reverent of the culture of the people, appropriately awed by the setting, and, amazingly
enough, manages to convey it all on film.  But don't worry, it's not some social studies project.  When Tinle takes a treacherous shortcut to try and catch up with Karma it's as exciting as any Hollywood thriller.

Though he's a difficult man, almost Lear-like in his determination to dictate events after he passes, we root for Tinle, over the disrespectful Karma.  But when Norbou offers the lesson of the film--"When two paths open up before you, always choose the hardest one"--we see that the two men, though locked in a generational clash, are more alike than they or we first realized and that there's an unexpected continuity to the life of the villagers, a circularity entirely appropriate to their religious beliefs, or vice versa.  The film ends up being as lovely in spiritual terms as it is in physical terms, and that's saying something.


Grade: (A)


See also:

    -FILM SITE : Himalaya
    -INFO : Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef (1999) (
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Eric Valli (
    -ESSAY : Rana Tharu : Women of Grace :  When warfare left them widows, legend says, these women who had fled to the forest of southern Nepal founded a society that has endured for 400 years. (Debra Kellner, Photographs by Eric Valli & Debra Kellner, National Geographic)
    -PROFILE : With Himalaya, National Geographic Photographer Moves to Big Screen (David Braun, National Geographic News, June 22, 2001)
    -PROFILE : Director captures dying traditions with Himalaya (CLAIRE BICKLEY, August 9, 2001, Toronto Sun)
    -ESSAY : The last of the caravans : A Tibetan star cast is living out the life of Dolpo's salt caravans whose story is now at the heart of a French-made film.   Eric Valli, its director, calls it the highest and the craziest film in the whole history of cinema. (Tibetan Bulletin)
    -ARCHVES : "eric valli" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : "eric valli" (Mag Portal)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE : Himalaya - l'enfance d'un chef (1999) (Movie review query Engine)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE : Himalaya (MetaCritic)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Stanley Kaufman, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (A. O. SCOTT, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (GREGORY WEINKAUF , New Times LA)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (KEVIN THOMAS, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Ky N. Nguyen, Washington Diplomat)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Political Film Society)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Arthur Lazere, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (BRANDON SMITH, Calgary Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (CLAIRE BICKLEY, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (ADAM NAYMAN , Eye Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Gloria Goodale, The Christian Science Monitor
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Andrew Harvey , Pop Matters)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Jonathan Curiel,
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Neil Norman, This is London)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (John Nesbit, Culture Dose)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Michael Thomson, BBCi
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Leslie Camhi, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Richard von Busack, MetroActive)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (FFVP Review)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Kimberley Jones, Austin Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Kudzai Mudede, The Stranger)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Jeremy Mathews, Red Magazine)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (DEBORAH HORNBLOW, The Hartford Courant)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Dallas Faulkner, VERGE)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (J. Paul Henry, Hybrid)
    -REVIEW : of Himalaya (Justin Lowe, Asian Week)

    -The Dolpo Project
    -Guru Rinpoche
    -Palyul Ling: About Guru Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche