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Sep 21

A Shepherdess from Ladakh

It’s rare for the ClothRoads blog to offer up a film review. Even rarer is that we’re hosting an all-day film festival focused on celebrating textiles from around the world— a focus on the rich colors, earthy textures, and deep traditions of handmade artisan textiles and the people who create them. But the rarest of all, is the feature film The Shepherdess of the Glacier —a story of Tsering, who leads a solitary life as one of the last shepherdesses in the far northern mountains of Ladakh, India, and leads her flock of 300 sheep and cashmere goats to graze on the 5500 meter high Himalayan Plateaus in a dry and desolate landscape. Her unbreakable bond with her animals brings to life the poignance of a disappearing way of life.

The Shepherdess of the Glacier: Reflections by Deborah Robson
When I initially had the opportunity to view The Shepherdess of the Glaciers, I watched the film twice: first for the overview and the story, and the second time because it was so beautiful. A movie needs to be truly extraordinary for me to venture two viewings and anticipate more, and The Shepherdess of the Glaciers qualifies.

It’s a quiet film, where the drama focuses simply on a tough landscape and its human and animal inhabitants. It follows the yearly cycles in the life of Tsering, tending her sheep and goats in Ladakh, a region of India associated culturally and historically with nearby Tibet. It’s a high-altitude desert, bordered by the Kunlun and Himalaya mountains. Most of it lies above 9,800 feet. Temperatures range in summer from about 35 to 95°F and in winter from about 25 to -25°F. Vegetation concentrates at the higher levels with access to moisture from snow; Tsering spends a good part of the year on a plateau at around 18,000 feet. Although she has family and community support, for the most part Tsering lives in solitude and companionship with her animals.

Tsering’s life has been documented by her brother, Stanzin Dorjai Gya, with fondness and appreciation. It’s evident that Tsering loves her animals and the challenging life that comes along with tending them. There is something precious here that those of us who live in other environments may find we envy, at the same time that we marvel at this shepherdess’ tenacity.

As a movie, The Shepherdess of the Glaciers is exquisite. The cinematography alone warrants your attention. The film acquired the well-deserved Grand Prize at the 2016 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.

Yet on reflection what I recall most about the experience of watching this feature is the extent to which it is imbued with love. –Deborah Robson

Thanks to Deborah Robson for sharing her reflections on this tender documentary. Deborah will be leading a talkback after the film Saturday evening. She’ll bring her veteran’s perspective as a spinner and knitter, teacher, writer, editor, and the author of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook and Field Guide to Fleece to the discussion.

The Shepherdess of the Glaciers is the feature presentation on Saturday evening, October 7.
Click this to view the full program of nine films, talkbacks, and marketplace.

Watch the trailer to The Shepherdess of the Glaciers:

Tickets to the film festival can be purchased at the Rialto Theatre and by clicking here. The Rialto Theatre is a historic landmark in old town Loveland, Colorado.

The Shepherdess of the Glaciers will be shown at other locations around the U.S. Please visit Wild Fibers Magazine for the complete listings. We thank Stanzin Dorjai and Linda Cortright for their dedication to this film and ongoing related projects.

The film festival is hosted by ClothRoads and Thrums Books, dedicated to preserving artisan textiles and traditions and the people who make them.

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