HIMALAYAN GOLD RUSH
France, 52 minutes, 2012
Directed by Eric Valli
Wednesday February 13th, 7:30pm
Pacific Cinemateque MAP
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Every spring, in a remote part of Nepal, tens of thousands of men, women and children leave their villages for a dangerous trek to the high Himalaya, sometimes at the cost of their lives, to collect Yarsagumbu -a mysterious transmutation between plant and insect. Used in Chinese medicine, it is worth up to 60 000 USD a kilo – more than gold! Suga Lal is a peasant. He lives in a valley of Western Nepal, with his wife Moti and their two sons Raj and Surendra. Working their land provides them with barely enough to survive, so their only option is to join the hunt for Yarsagumbu. But this hidden treasure is rare and difficult to find. They will have to climb higher and higher, up to 5500 meters, to collect a sufficient amount that means they’ll be able to make ends meet until next year.
Dhanchandra works for a rich Yarsagumbu dealer based in Kathmandu. Travelling from camp to camp with bags full of cash, he must buy enough of the best specimens from the villagers who collect them. But the job is perilous: theft is common and some people are ready to kill for such treasure. Dhan Shandra sometimes even needs military protection to bring the harvest back to Kathmandu and ship it to high-class Hong Kong pharmacies. From the gigantic snow-capped summits of the Himalaya to the luxurious penthouses of Hong Kong, from the hands of poor Nepalese peasants to those of the wealthiest Chinese consumers, feel the incredible fever of this Himalayan Gold Rush.