Talking To The Air: The Horses of the Forbidden Kingdom had its world premiere to sold out crowds at the prestigious Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival in December 2014. It went on to win Best Documentary Feature at its U.S premiere as well as several more international awards.
To bring back this story we traveled to a remote part of the Himalayas, where humans have survived with the horse as central to their culture and spiritual lives. The film illustrates the vivid history of Mustang, a remote Kingdom, shuttered to foreigners until recently. The Himalaya are the backdrop for colorful and lively horse festivals and the film includes rare archival footage of the Dalai Lama escaping on horseback across the Himalaya to India Many other evocative stories and interviews complete this entirely new angle on the amazingly adapted horses of this region. The film features the Royal Family of Mustang, Buddhist Priests and the daring riders of this high Himalayan region – a culture vanishing before our eyes.
MORE ABOUT THE FILM
“The quality of a man’s life depends on the quality of his horse”
Priest to the King of Mustang
The horse has been central to existence, culture and spirituality in Mustang, Nepal. The documentary “Talking to the Air” tells the story of the ascent of civilization in the high Himalaya and turns a lens on issues of globalization, fragile border politics and the precarious future for the horse in this remarkable region.
The film was shot in a little-known region in the heart of the Himalaya, where the Lo people of Mustang have depended on the horse for their survival and have developed a deep spiritual connection with the equine. Mustang, the last forbidden Kingdom, is no longer shuttered to foreigners, though it is still geographically remote, majestic and difficult to get to. The people of upper Mustang have lived virtually the same way since the middle ages.
The cornerstone to the film is the three-day Yartung Horse Festival celebrating the end of the monsoon. The racing events pit the most daring village riders against each other and are a dramatic and compelling visual backdrop to the colorful ceremonies of the windswept, walled medieval town of Lo Manthang. Daring riders are said to be “talking to the air” as they careen along on their small, strong horses.
Told by the very people of the region, the film also recounts the story of the CIA’s covert operations with the Tibetan resistance fighters, and features archival footage of the Dalai Lama’s flight on horseback over the Himalaya. In this harsh and inaccessible environment, the karmic lives of the Lo people are very much tied into the lives of their horses, and this film explores the ancient practices and belief systems that still very much part of daily lives.
As a synthesis of visual beauty and academic scope, the film as a chronicle is imperative to the responsible stewardship of our collective historical and cultural memory.
Through strategic collaborations, screenings, engagement and website, the film has the strength to influence social movements that would be pivotal in helping preserve the important cultural practices of this region.
The horse has been integral to survival and central to spiritual life. The forces of globalization have put these longstanding bonds and ritual heritage in a precarious position and the film is an intimate portrait of a region facing the unpredictable pressures of the future. The film also includes interviews with Sienna Craig - author of "Horses Like Lightning" and Mikel Dunham, author of "Buddha's Warriors".