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A Himalaya Experience

A Himalaya Experience
Thursday, March 30, 2006
by Ivo Gyurovski ’09

On the 29th of March the International Club and the Film Club of Hampden-Sydney College presented an international film and food festival. It featured Eric Valli’s Academy Award nominated Himalaya Caravan, along with a diverse menu.

The guests of the festival enjoyed several kinds of food prepared by the International Club students with the generous help of ARAMARK under the professional eye of Joy Donaldson, Catering Manager, and Chef Mack Williams, who supervised the preparation of the food. One dish was Basmati Rice, which is typical food throughout Asia. Another was Chicken Curry based on Indian/Nepalese recipe. There were other dishes, for vegetarians, called Cauliflower Vegetable and Potato Pickle, originating from Nepal. The last dish was a Tibetan/Nepalese specialty in the form of steamed dumplings called Momos. The spiciness of the Asian food was alleviated with sweet iced tea.

After a welcome by Nutan Shrestha ’06, President of the International Club, and an eclectic intercultural meal, the guests of the festival enjoyed an outstanding and authentic movie created by Eric Valli. He is a Swiss filmmaker who embarked on the adventure of producing Himalaya Caravan in spite of the winter blizzards at elevations up to 15,000 feet, the most severe difficulties a filmmaker can face. Valli, author of numerous books on cultural issues, directed two documentaries devoted to the Tibetan culture in Nepal.

The movie is shot in western Tibetan Himalaya, which according to Valli is characterized by “courage, tolerance and dignity.” The first scene represents yak herders coming back from the Tibetan Plateau to a secluded Dolpo village, leading the annual salt caravan, carrying the important material essential for their survival that the villagers will later trade for grain. The people’s joy is quickly extinguished when they understand that Lhakpa, son of Thinley, the village chieftain, has died. Thinley blames his son’s right-hand man, Karma, for what has happened to his son, implying that the younger man is trying to take control of the village. Karma confirms Thinley’s suspicions when declaring he will lead the caravan in Lhakpa’s place. Karma leaves the village with 200 yaks bearing the salt before the designated date and thus provoking predictions for disaster. As a result the village is split between the boldness of the young and the wisdom of the old. Not long after Karma’a departure Thinley also leaves, on the previously set date, with the little son of Lhakpa, Tsering. Facing many difficulties and obstacles they finally catch up with Karma where complicated tribal issues take place. After arguing with one another, Thinley and Karma realize that a way characterized by mutual cooperation and respect is the right one.

Himalayan Caravan portrays the cultural traditions of a rapidly vanishing Tibetan culture in an outstanding way. Some of the commentaries about the movie include: “Rousing outdoor adventure…fascinating…visually stunning drama” – William Arnold, Seattle Post Intelligencer,”(four stars) Dazzling” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, “A film of visual beauty” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times.

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