Caravan: Nepal’s First Foreign Language Film Oscar Nominee

Nepal’s first-ever nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category, Caravan, was a multi-national production: French-British-Swiss-Nepalese feature.

Set in the highest reaches of the Himalayas, the film was made with a French crew and cast, and Tibetans speaking their native language.

The film, shot exclusively on the rough mountain terrains of Dolpa, the biggest district of Nepal, appealed to Nepalese and other filmgoers.

It portrays the life of the region’s salt traders who lead yak caravans along a long and difficult trek across the Himalayas to Tibet, depicting the harsh life of the mountain people and their rituals.

The tale’s central character is Tinle (played by Thilen Lhondup), the chieftain of the salt traders, whose eldest son has just died. He refuses to allow the young Karma, whom he accuses of being responsible for his son’s death, to lead the caravan.

Karma gathers young members of the clan and sets off for Tibet leading the caravan on his own. Stung by this rebellion, Tinle with help from his old friends and grandson, who would the head the caravan, decides against all odds to set out for the formidable destination.

The roads on the way are narrow and frightening. At one point a big yak falls off from a cliff into Lake Ringo.

On the way, the two caravans meet and Karma’s followers leave him alone and join Tinle.

The film offers information about the lifestyle, culture and tradition of the people of Dolpa, and the surrounding desert landscape.

Director Eric Valli, a French national, had initially conceptualized Caravan as a documentary. He also was faced with the difficulty of obtaining money to shoot the film. It was at this time that Neer Shah (actor and producer) offered to make an investment and also act as advisor in the venture.