Framing the Himalayas: Kashmir and Tibet on Screen

Date Film Time
1/23 The Epic of Everest 7 pm
1/30 Lost Horizon 7 pm
2/6 Black Narcissus 7 pm
2/13 Haider 7 pm
2/19 Valley of Saints 7 pm

This winter Block Cinema presents a film series linked to the exhibit Collecting Culture: Himalaya through the Lens, which looks at European and American representations of Kashmir and the Himalayas, and the exhibit Collecting Paradise: Buddhist Art of Kashmir and its Legacies, an original and innovative look at Buddhist art from the region of Kashmir, as well as ways it has been “collected.” The companion film series includes classic and recent films that are set in the same region, both real and imagined. The series opens with the silent film, The Epic of Everest (1924), Captain John Noel’s historic record of the 1924 Mount Everest expedition in a newly restored version from the British Film Institute. Other classic films include Lost Horizon (1937, Frank Capra), which introduces the concept of Shangri-La, a fictional paradise on earth in the Himalayas; and Black Narcissus (1947, Powell & Pressburger), the celebrated British Technicolor film about a convent in the Himalayas. Also included are two contemporary films set in Kashmir, the disputed border region between India and Pakistan. These include the Bollywood sensation Haider (2014), and the independent drama, Valley of Saints (2012), which each address the political strife in the region, as well the religion, traditions, and contemporary culture of Kashmir.

The Epic of Everest

Friday, January 23, 2015 7:00 PM
(Captain John Noel, 1924, UK, DCP, 87 min.)

One of a number of 1920s documentaries on exotic and remote peoples and places, The Epic of Everest had been unfairly overlooked until this recent restoration by the British Film Institute. The film is a fascinating account of an ill-fated attempt to climb the fabled mountain and a vibrant look at Tibetan villagers and nomads, but it’s the stunning photography of Everest and the Himalayas that steals the show. Captain John Noel captures both the awe-inspiring beauty of the region and its frighteningly barren and landscape and harsh conditions, which could be fatal at a moment’s notice.

Lost Horizon

Friday, January 30, 2015 7:00 PM
(Frank Capra, 1937, US, DCP, 132 min.)

Based on James Hilton’s best-selling novel, Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon brings Hilton’s fictional Himalayan valley to life, creating one of the most vivid settings in film (no matter that it was all shot in California, not Tibet). A hijacking and plane crash brings a diverse group of survivors to Shangri-La, a mysterious and harmonious valley high in the mountains presided over by a High Lama. The dashing Ronald Colman stars as Robert Conway, the new British Foreign Secretary, who finds peace in this seeming paradise, and Jane Wyatt plays his love interest, Sondra, who was raised in Shangri-La.

Restored version courtesy of Sony Pictures Repertory.

Black Narcissus

Friday, February 6, 2015 7:00 PM
(Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947, UK, 35mm, 100 min.)

One of the glories of Technicolor cinema, Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus is a ravishment for the eyes. Only fitting, as the film is about excesses of desire and emotion, and the dangers of trying to repress them. The story is about a group of Anglican nuns who have come to found a convent deep in the Himalayas, and the relationship of one in particular, Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), with the British Agent (David Farrar). The exotic locale has an almost mystical influence on the sisters, kindling both romantic and carnal releases that threaten their mission, their state of mind, and their way of life.


Friday, February 13, 2015 7:00 PM
(Vishal Bhardwaj, 2014, India, DCP, 160 min.)


In the latest film by Bollywood director Vishal Bhardwaj, a young man returns to Kashmir after his father's disappearance to confront the uncle who had a hand in his father's fate. Haider is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, displacing the action from Denmark to the city of Srinagar in the war-torn Kashmir of the mid-1990s. A critical success in India and abroad, the film caused a stir in India, angering government officials and Hindu nationalists who claimed it glorified terrorists and called for a boycott of the film. The Times of India called it “superb, witty, violent, tragic - magic.”

Please Note: Space is limited, arrive early. Seating will be first-come, first-served.

Valley of Saints

Thursday, February 19, 2015 7:00 PM
(Musa Syeed, 2012, US, DCP, 82 min.)

Widely considered to be the crown jewel of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a sprawling aquatic community where erupting political violence often distracts from the natural beauty. Gulzar, a young, working-class boatman, plans to skip town with his best friend Afzal in search of a better life, but a weeklong military curfew (and a beautiful ecologist, Asifa) delays their departure. With the end of the conflict looming, Gulzar has to choose between a new life and a new love. Shot during the military curfew of 2010, Valley of Saints weaves together documentary and fiction, ancient myths and contemporary issues, and the beauty and danger of Kashmir to tell a story of finding one’s path home in a changing world.