From Nomad to Nobody

czech subtitles

Motivated by previous travels to Tibet, the narrator sets off on a personal quest, focusing on the fast-disappearing Tibetan nomad culture. Why are the nomads being forcibly relocated by Chinese officials? Why are they are being shifted off their traditional grazing lands into concrete ghettos? In these settlement camps, nomads are marginalised and have little chance of making a decent living, or finding a new profession. Previously, when grazing yaks, they were self-sufficient and lived in an entirely sustainable way. Now, they are unemployed, and dependent on the Chinese government for hand-outs—and for food.

Between 1995 and 2015, official Chinese policy has targeted the removal of more than two million Tibetan nomads from their land for settlement. In an era where sustainability is the mantra, Chinese policy makes no sense. This re-settlement policy is designed to wipe out nomad culture and its strong connections to traditional Tibetan values. Nomads are the stewards of the vast grasslands of Tibet—they have been grazing these lands with their yaks for close on 4,000 years. Without the nomads, the grasslands (already affected by climate change) will further deteriorate and turn into desert. This could have global impact, as these grasslands constitute an important carbon sink.

What are the motives behind China’s forcible settlement of Tibetan nomads on such a huge scale? Why are Chinese mining and dam-building companies moving into the same grassland regions? What happens to nomads after shifting to a semi-urban environment? What happens if they try to mount protests? What does the future hold for the vast grasslands of Tibet? These are questions the documentary sets out to explore, in this personal take on the plight of Tibetan nomads.


Best Documentary Short, Golden Palm Award, Mexico International Film Festival, April 2012

Best Environmental Film, Colorado Film Festival, USA, 2012

Best Foreign Documentary, Lone Pine Short FF, California, USA, 2012

Best in Cinematography, Third World Indie FF, California, USA, 2012

Best Environmental Film, Yosemite Film Festival, USA, 2012

Seven Summits Award, Mountain/Environmental Competition, Mountain Film Awards, California, USA, 2012

Award of Excellence, Documentary Competition, Canada International Film Festival, 2012

Silver Award, Documentary Film Competition, California Film Awards, USA, 2011

Bronze Award, Documentary Competition, Oregon Film Awards, USA, 2011

Award for Music & Cultural Education, Montana CINE Film Festival, USA, 2012