9:23 min
Director: Lynn True & Nelson Walker
Producer: Nelson Walker, Co-Produced by Tsering Perlo & Keefe Murren



A NOMAD’S LIFE was conceived as part of the Kham Film Project, an association of American and Tibetan filmmakers working together to improve the quality and diversity of knowledge about Tibet by engaging Tibetans in the filmmaking process. In making A NOMAD’S LIFE, we partnered with Rabsal, a local Tibetan NGO dedicated to using film and multimedia as a means of Tibetan self-representation. Tsering Perlo, the founder of Rabsal and an emerging documentary filmmaker himself, is a principal collaborator on the project. Perlo grew up in the nomadic community depicted in A NOMAD’S LIFE and he provided rare access to this place seldom seen by outsiders.

Historically, Tibetan nomads have thrived in an extreme environment where few other humans dared to live. Until China’s occupation of Tibet in 1959, the basic patterns of life had changed little since the first nomads domesticated the yak and took to the pastures over 8,000 years ago.

But now, unprecedented challenges are confronting this traditional lifestyle. A NOMAD’S LIFE captures the struggles of a young nomadic family as their pastoral way of life is threatened by a fast-approaching globalization.

The film follows the family of Locho, Yama and their infant daughter (whom they call “Jiatomah” loosely translated as “spiky brown-haired baby”) who spend the summer in the pastures of Jomtod Valley in Tibet’s Kham region 15,000 feet above sea level. The Chinese call this region Wu-Zui or “Five Most” for its reputation as the highest, coldest, poorest, largest and most remote area in Kham. Neither crops nor trees grow here; only hearty alpine grass sustains the family’s herd of yaks & the treasured animals that enable Locho and Yama to carve an existence from one of the harshest habitable environments on earth.

Environmental degradation has thinned the grasslands and modernization has begun to reveal alluring alternatives to the struggles of maintaining a yak herd. In response, many families have left the pasture for permanent settlement. As Locho and Yama contemplate their future as nomads, they find themselves caught between a deep attachment to the life they know and love, and intense uncertainty over what will be best for little Jiatomah as she grows up in contemporary Tibet.

We completed principle photography for A NOMAD’S LIFE in September 2007 when Locho and Yama were moving from summer pasture to fall pasture. They have since moved again, this time to a semi-permanent mud-brick dwelling near town where they will spend the cold mid-winter months. We anticipate they will return to the pasture sometime in May 2008, right around the time when Jiatomah will have her first birthday. We plan to return to Kham in the fall of 2008 to continue working on the feature-length version of the film with collaborator Tsering Perlo and to follow up with Locho and Yama.


economic justice, family & society, racial justice, Media That Matters 8,
Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works


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