Himalaya
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

Himalaya is the second film that I've seen this year where the characters speak in Tibetan with subtitles.  This is two more films than I had seen in my whole life previously.  The first was The Cup which is a delightful film about World-Cup crazy Buddhist monks. Himalaya is a much more traditional story which was nominated for an Oscar last year for Best Foreign Film.   It is set in a village which survives by trading salt which the villagers must carry over the mountains on the backs of their Yaks.  As the film begins, the son of the old chief of the village has been killed and so there is no one to lead the herd in the dangerous trek.  The old chief clashes with another young man who thinks he should be the leader.  The young man sets off with most of the Yaks and the younger men.  The Chief waits for the most propitious day for their departure as decreed by the monks and then sets off in pursuit with his young grandson, the son's widow and some old superstitious men.  The trek over the mountains is very beautiful and looks like an IMAX film.  In fact, the director, Eric Valli, used to make documentaries for National Geographic.  But as the film and the trek go on and on, you will feel like you are on the trek yourself, just trying to make it to the ending credits.  While you may be transfixed by the scenery, the story itself, is very pedestrian.  Unlike The Cup, where the characters came alive in their Buddhist monastery, in Himalaya, we are watching something much more stylized.  As the Yaks teetered on the edge of precipices and blizzards threaten the hardy villagers, I was not caught up in the story or its characters.  Himalaya, like the previous films by the director, plays like a documentary.  But it is interesting to see the lives of these people high in the Himalayas untouched by the outside world.  And the cinematography is spectacular.  But if you haven't seen it, rent The Cup and see a wonderful film.