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At first glance, the movie Himalaya is remarkable – a beautifully shot docudrama about Tibetan villagers fighting internal strife to maintain their annual trek to trade Tibetan salt for Nepalese grain. The landscape is breathtaking, and the cinematography constantly stops you in your tracks. Eric Valli's tale of a real-life tribe from the Dolpo Valley received an Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film, but it's not until you watch the special feature ('The Making Of' by Deborah Kellner) on the DVD that you really understand what makes this film remarkable.

HimalayaNational Geographic photographer.) First of all, he hired the Dolpo-pa to play themselves – people who had never been to a cinema, let alone acted in a movie. He also decided to film the movie entirely on location, making the same hazardous journey as the Dolpo-pa would – through perilous mountains, along sheer cliff edges and through blistering blizzards.

Himalayayaks (transport doubling as actors, with a fiberglass yak brought along for stunts), and 20 crew set off for the Dolpa Valley – ten days walk from the nearest road. They carried enough supplies with them for the planned 79-day shoot. Disaster followed disaster – permits were cut short, the main actor contracted bronchitis, some of the crew got stuck in a mountain pass. After six weeks, they finally started shooting.


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