A Shawl to die for
2008 India, a film by Rita Benerji, 21 minutes
English with Czech subtitles
A Shawl to Die For tracks the ancient craft of shahtoosh weaving in Kashmir, India and discovers its links to the Tibetan antelope or Chiru found on the Chang Tang plateau in the Tibet Autonomous region of China. The documentary discovers and establishes that shahtoosh is in fact, the under-fleece of the Chiru, which is killed to extract this extraordinary fibre. This wool however comes with a historical importance as it has been woven into fabric only in the Kashmir valley in north India. Though the international ban on shahtoosh has been critical for the survival of the endangered Chiru, earlier killed relentlessly for its fleece, it has also jeopardised the livelihood of thousands of shahtoosh workers in Kashmir whose only way of earning their bread was through weaving. The film explores this grim struggle between conservation and livelihood. It also documents an alternative livelihoods project that is helping to preserve the traditional skills of shahtoosh craftspeople while helping them move away from shahtoosh weaving to alternative earnings. A Shawl to Die For won an award for Technical Excellence in Cinematography at the prestigious CMS Vatavaran 2009 film awards – India’s premier festival for Indian and international documentaries on environment and wildlife, held at New Delhi, India.