Spiritual ‘Shambhala’ marks Nepal’s first shot at Berlinale top prize

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 11:43 AM

By Swantje Stein

BERLIN (Reuters) – A wronged woman’s spiritual journey plays out amid the peaks and villages of the Himalayas in “Shambhala”, Nepal’s first film in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, which debuted Friday.

“I feel very happy to be here at Berlinale,” director Min Bahadur Bham told Reuters, saying he was proud to represent not only his film, but also Nepal, his village and his community.

The director known for “Bansulli” and “The Black Hen” said filming in such challenging terrain was not easy.

Shooting the film in the Himalayas on locations between 4,200 and 6,000 meters in altitude was physically demanding, said Bham. “But internally, we were so prepared for this … It was a great experience, once in a lifetime.”

“Shambhala” follows Thinley Lhamo’s Pema, a young woman living in a polyandrous marriage with Tashi, played by Tenzin Dalha, and his brothers Karma (Sonam Topden) and Dawa (Karma Wangyal Gurung) in a remote village.

Pema discovers she is pregnant after Tashi leaves on a trading trip to Lhasa, spurring rumours about who fathered the child and prompting her to set off in search of her husband.

The expedition turns into a journey of spiritual discovery for Pema as, accompanied by Karma, she traverses the treacherous landscape, accompanied by song, to find a sort of resolution.

“It’s about, let’s say, the journey and a place where you find peace and love,” Karma Shakya, who plays the teacher Ram Sir, told Reuters on the red carpet, referring to the concept of Shambhala in Buddhist teaching.

“I hope it (the film) portrays that message. And you will see it through the female lead,” Shakya added.

(Reporting by Swantje Stein; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Ros Russell)