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Film-making in Ladakh with Sean Whitaker – “Buddha of the Chadar” and “Passport Ladakh”

Film-making in Ladakh with Sean Whitaker – “Buddha of the Chadar” and “Passport Ladakh”

Sean Whitaker, 6 May 2021, 14.00

Sean Whitaker is a freelance filmmaker, writer and photographer based on the north coast of Cornwall. Over the years he has made many visits to the mountains of north India. In 2016 he over-wintered in Ladakh to film a journey that would become Buddha of the Chadar and a year later he returned to collaborate with local photographer Skarma Rinchen on the short film Passport Ladakh. Previously he has worked as a factotum in Australia, a dive guide in Indonesia and a plumber in West Africa.  Here he talks about his objectives in making the films, the journeys that they involved, the process of filming and his relationships with the people who are the centres of the films. 

NB – the films will not be shown during the webinar, so please watch them in advance.  There are links to both of them below.

“Buddha of the Chadar”, (28′) the first of the two films, is about a father and son from Ladakh making a winter journey on the frozen Zanskar River – a route known as the Chadar. In veneration of their faith, they carry a heavy and unwieldy statue of Gautama Buddha, which they plan to offer to a remote Buddhist monastery.

“Passport Ladakh” (6’20”) records the work of Skarma Rinchen who from 1982 visited remote parts of the region to photograph villagers for their mandatory identification cards.  Travelling by motorcycle often for days at a time, over the years he accumulated a vast archive of portraits at a time when the culture of Ladakh was in a state of profound change.

Joining Sean in conversation will be James Crowden, who made his own journey along the frozen river in 1976 and spoke to the RSAA about the journey and his book about it in early 2020.

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