Drokpa

Drokpa

Yan Chun Su | 
US/China |
 2016 | 
79 minutes

THIS SCREENING IS PART OF THE JUSTICE FORUM SERIES AND WILL INCLUDE A POST-FILM DISCUSSION.

Director Yan Chun Su’s gorgeous observational film captures life on the Tibetan Plateau. The last of Tibet’s drokpa (nomads) lead herds of yak and sheep over hilly grasslands. No longer limitless and free- ranging, they move across sections of pasture, now allotted to them by the Chinese government.

The drokpa speak of fences and goldmines, of happiness and hardship. There is constant intrusion to contend with, the greatest being massive climate change, as the once-lush Tibetan Plateau enters into an increasingly rapid desertification stage. As the desert grows, sand becomes an uninvited ingredient in most dropka meals. Though the nomads resist by patching yak dung onto sprawling dunes and picking sand out of their food, they have been cornered. Su captures the last years of an agentive people caught inside a political and ecological landscape that is beyond their control.

A patient and thoughtful documentary, Drokpa gives nuance to a traditional people. Beyond what is being lost — the brilliance of day- to-day drokpa ingenuity and environmental sustainability — there are things to be gained. Su observes the beautiful and the problematic in equal measure. As one drokpa woman puts it, “Women do most of the work.” By offering a critical and complex representation of an indigenous people who are so often simplified, Drokpa demystifies Tibet’s last nomads. With balance and equanimity, the narrative fully reveals the complexities of colonialism, patriarchy and climate change without judgment. -AD

Justice Forum Panelist

Tsering Shakya

Tsering Shakya, is a Professor at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of The Dragon in the Land of Snows, A History of Tibet Since 1947, Published by Columbia University Press.   

Justice Forum Panelist

Mati Bernabei

Mati Bernabei is a member of the Board of Directors of Canada Tibet Committee, an organization that advocates for social and environmental justice in Tibet. Her involvement with Tibetan community and advocacy began after her first trip to Tibet, in 1988.  By day Mati is a high school science teacher, and completed graduate research focused on Tibetan education in the diaspora.