Caravan: a New Movie Set in the Himalayas

The following article is from the Autumn, 2000 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

[Edited from an article by Giovanni Fazio in Japan Times, printed on October 31, 2000]

One of the hottest tickets to be had at the Tokyo International Film Festival was for director Eric Valli's Caravan, a stunningly shot tale of perilous mountain journeys set in the remotest regions of the Himalayas. Valli took a small crew to the Dolpo regionon the border of Nepal and Tibet and embarked on a 32-week trek over 1,400 km, traversing passes as high as 5,000 meters, amid real-life blizzards and avalanches, in order to trace the steps of centuries of trading caravans.

I knew it was the only way to bring this incredible atmosphere to the screen, he said. And audiences are touched by this.

The film is rich with detail, perfectly chosen locations and an intimate feel for the rhythms and rituals of mountain life, and this is precisely because Valli has immersed himself deeply in the culture. A Frenchman who describes himself as a total nomad, Valli laughed while explaining how he decided to go to Nepal for a week and ended up staying 20 years.

I like these kind of people, like Tinle, like Karma. Because your life there is always on the edge; it's not lifeit's survival. Every day is a challenge. And you have to be able to trust your neighbor.

The tale of Caravan is fictional, but archetypal: Village elder Tinle is enraged when his eldest son dies in an accident, and holds the caravan's new leader, Karma, responsible. Another caravan is due to set out before winter, but Tinle refuses to let Karma lead it. Karma sets out anyway, well before the shaman's auspicious date. Tinle, determined to assert his authority, enlists his second son Norbu, a Buddhist monk, and sets out at a furious pace to overtake Karma's caravan, choosing some dangerously precipitous shortcuts.

Valli used no professional actors in the film, relying on local friends, many of whom hadn't even seen a film. The script Valli wrote came out real events in their lives, which really are epic adventures. ä_æ

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