HIMALAYA, LE CHEMIN DU CIEL
France / 2008 / 52'
The setting is the harsh, yet majestic, landscape of the snow-capped Zanskar Mountains, a valley 4000 metres above sea level in the North-West Indian Himalayas. The film follows the lives of child monks, in particular Kenrap, an eight-year-old who was hailed as the reincarnation of an elderly monk at the age of five. The director speaks with Kenrap and asks him about his life; they talk in the rooms of Phugtal monastery, at his morning wash in temperatures of -20°C, during a philosophy lesson, while he washes dishes or plays with his friends, even during the few days he spends with his family. The film depicts a happy, playful child, yet one who is convinced he is a wise old man. An incisive portrayal of the daily lives of Buddhist monks.
French ethnologist Marianne Chaud was born in 1976. She graduated from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris with a doctoral thesis on the relationship between humans and the Himalayan region of Ladakh-Zanskar, in the north of India. In the ten years that followed, she returned to these areas on a regular basis and was welcomed by Zanskari families; she learned their language, habits and customs and took part in their daily lives, both in the fields and at home, creating a strong bond with the local population. In 2005, she sent a proposal to French production house ZED for a documentary on two young Zanskari women, which went on to become the film Devenir une femme au Zanskar. In 2006, she returned to Zanskar to make another film, this time on her own. The result, Himalaya, terre des femmes, portrays the daily lives of four generations of women and it won the Italian Alpine Club’s Gold Gentian at the 57th TrentoFilmfestival. Marianne then embarked upon another solo project in which she used a tiny camera to film the life of Kenrap, an 8-year-old Buddhist monk. The result was the documentary Himalaya, le chemin du ciel, which was released in France in 2009; it won the Città di Trento Gold Gentian for Best Film at the 58th TrentoFilmfestival. Marianne has recently taken an interest in the political situation in Tibet and has agreed to make Orphelins du Tibet, a film on Tibetan children in India.