DER Documentary

Himalayan Herders

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by John & Naomi Bishop
color, 76 min, 1997

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Himalayan Herders is an intimate portrait of a temple-village in the Yolmo valley of Central Nepal where Tibetan Buddhists consult shamans, married life begins by kidnapping the bride, and the nearest road is a two-day walk away. The community drama of marriage, death, and rituals is juxtaposed with the rich texture of daily life, both in the village and the surrounding mountains and forest where these pastoralists herd zomo, a cross between a cow and a yak, which thrives in middle altitude pastures between 8,000 and 14,000 feet. Cultural change, in the form of a government primary school, incorporation into a national park, and circular migration for wage labor outside Nepal, is discussed by residents in interviews. A twenty-five-year-long collaboration between an ethnographer and a documentary filmmaker, the film provides rich material for examining gender, cultural change, religion, pastoralism, South Asia, and the cultural ecology and economics of mountain populations.

An ethnography, Himalayan Herders, published by Harcourt Brace in fall 1997 as part of the Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology Series, provides a companion volume to the film.

"Himalayan Herders is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking, visually ravishing and made all the more special by its expert scholarship and inherent respect for the culture it is observing."
—Brent Kliewer in Pasatiempo, the magazine of the daily paper, The New Mexican

John Bishop is an independent documentary filmmaker. His previous work includes The Land Where Blues Began, A Place For Jazz, The Last Window, New England Fiddles, YoYo Man, and Khmer Court Dance. He teaches video production at UCLA's Department of World Arts and Culture.

Naomi Bishop is an anthropologist and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at California State University at Northridge.

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts