Stories From The Camp: Shepherdess Of The Himalayas
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A wonderful morning at the Chamba Camp, Thiksey, as we showed some of the guests the astonishing documentary film Shepherdess of the Himalayas.
The film was directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Stanzin Dorjai, who is from Ladakh, and is one of the very few filmmakers working in the region.
He was born to a semi-nomadic family in a village called Gya, some 70 kilometres from the capital, Leh, where his family owns yaks and sheep. He became a part of SECMOL, the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, where many journalists, photographers and writers would volunteer, and it is here that he learnt the art of filmmaking. He graduated with a degree in Arts from Jammu University, before working as an editor executive producer and cinematographer.
In 2006, he founded the Himalayan Film House, a production company set up to make documentaries about the fast disappearing culture of the roof of the world.
Shepherdess of the Himalayas follows his older sister Tsering, who spends almost 11 months of the year alone, apart from her flock of 300 sheep and Pashmina goats, on a 5,500 metre-high Himalayan plateau in Ladakh. The film has garnered praise and awards from around the world.
“This documentary is a tribute to my childhood and Tsering. She amazed me every single day as I shot the documentary, and made me wonder why I am not a strong person like her,” says Dorjai.
The documentary was shot over a period of three years in Gya-Miru valley, where temperatures can reach as low as -32 degrees. You watch Tsering guiding her flock through the mountains towards the pastures, fighting the cold, loneliness and physical fatigue, with only a radio as a connection to the rest of the world. An astonishing woman, and a vital link with ancient Ladakhi culture, Shepherdess of the Himalayas is a crucially important document of a fascinating and valuable way of life.
We were thrilled that Dorjai was happy to come to the camp to show his film, he has already travelled around the world showing it to festival audiences, and basked in prolonged standing ovations. And he was happy to talk about the film afterwards and answer questions about it. Some of his stories about taking Tsering with him to Paris for a showing are hilarious and moving at the same time.
We at TUTC were immensely proud to have had him come and talk to us and share his insights, and look forward to sharing his magnificent work with other groups of guests in the future.
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