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INDEPENDENT LENS: Summer Pasture

Airs Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Yama churns butter as Locho attends to his skin care regimen, Zachukha, in eastern Tibet.

Filmed in the austere, beautiful, and windswept high grasslands of eastern Tibet, "Summer Pasture" provides a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of a young nomadic couple and their infant daughter during a time of great transition.

Yama and Locho's pale chubby baby in her crib.
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Above: Yama and Locho's pale chubby baby in her crib.

Yama and baby ride to Fall Pasture, eastern Tibet.
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Above: Yama and baby ride to Fall Pasture, eastern Tibet.

Locho negotiates with a Chinese shopkeeper.
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Above: Locho negotiates with a Chinese shopkeeper.

Yama collects yak dung in early morning.
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Above: Yama collects yak dung in early morning.

Nomads’ Land: Interactive Map

Like Locho and Yama in "Summer Pasture," nomadic people around the world are facing threats to their way of life by forced resettlement, climate change, political unrest, armed conflict, and assimilation into modern urban cities. Here’s a sampling of nomadic people throughout the globe who remain on the move despite the challenges.

With unprecedented access to a place seldom visited by the outside world, the film transports viewers inside the lives of Locho and Yama, hardworking yak herders who carve their existence from the land as their ancestors have for generations.

But as traditional nomadic life confronts rapid modernization, "Summer Pasture" becomes a moving and compassionate portrait of a family at a crossroads, revealing the difficult choices and profound sacrifices the parents will make to ensure their daughter’s future.

Locho (30), his wife Yama (27), and their infant daughter live in Zachukha, in eastern Tibet, a place nicknamed “5-most” by the Chinese for being the highest, coldest, poorest, largest, and most remote county in Sichuan Province, China.

During the summer months, Locho and Yama make their home in a high valley pasture, over 15,000 feet above sea level. Neither crops nor trees grow here, but the scrubby alpine grasses that do grow make ideal grazing for their herd of yaks and horses. Locho and Yama depend almost entirely on their animals for survival, just as their ancestors have for generations.

"Summer Pasture" evolves as an intimate exploration of Locho and Yama’s personalities, relationship, and the complicated web of circumstances that surrounds them. Over the course of the film we witness their travails with illness, infidelity, and the dissolution of their community as more and more nomads leave for the city.

Based on their own hard lives and difficulties, Locho and Yama come to believe that sending their daughter to school in a nearby town will afford her the most opportunity.

But they also realize that if she goes to school it is unlikely she will choose to live as a nomad. And if they do eventually send her, the couple will be forced to decide between the life they’ve always known or moving into town to be with their daughter.

Through its subtle observation of Locho and Yama’s character, Summer Pasture provides a deeply personal account of what it means to be a nomad in a swiftly modernizing world and the universal human struggles families endure.

A universal tale of family survival, "Summer Pasture" is a collaborative project, initiated by American filmmakers Lynn True and Nelson Walker, who partnered with emerging Tibetan filmmaker Tsering Perlo. The critically acclaimed film premieres on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Mary Louise Parker.

Independent Lens is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. "Summer Pasture" is on Facebook, and you can follow @SummerPasture on Twitter.

Video

Trailer: Independent Lens: Summer Pasture

Your browser does not support this object. Content can be viewed at actual source page: http://video.kpbs.org/video/2209270353

Watch Tibetan Nomads Negotiate the Crossroads Between Tradition and Modernity on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Above: In "Summer Pasture," get a rare view of an insular community seldom seen by outsiders: nomads living in the high grasslands of eastern Tibet.

Video

Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: Summer Pasture

Your browser does not support this object. Content can be viewed at actual source page: http://video.kpbs.org/video/2209270357

Watch Hardship and Heartbreak Threaten the Bonds of One Nomadic Family on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Above: With unprecedented access to a place seldom visited by the outside world, the film transports viewers inside the lives of Locho and Yama, hardworking yak herders who carve their existence from the land as their ancestors have for generations. But as traditional nomadic life confronts rapid modernization, "Summer Pasture" becomes a moving and compassionate portrait of a family at a crossroads, revealing the difficult choices and profound sacrifices the parents will make to ensure their daughter’s future.