In Autumn 2017 I travelled in northern Yunnan, China, filming and photographing the unique environment and culture of the region. At this time I had the good fortune of meeting Baima Dorje, the Tibetan owner of a circuit of boutique hotels in the region. Baima had previously produced a number of documentaries shot in the region and we got talking about Tibetan culture and filming, and one thing led to another, resulting in me spending much of 2018 collaborating with Baima and the Songtsam hotel group. We spent over 40 days filming in the region, with wonderful access afforded by Baima’s deep knowledge of, and commitment to, the local culture, and Songtsam’s excellent facilities. The initial results are two promotional films, with more outcomes to follow. Central to Songtsam’s mission of providing an excellent tourist experience is for guests to encounter the Buddhist suffused culture of the region – and perhaps a taste of Shambala, the legendary Tibetan kingdom, hidden deep in the mountains; a pure land of wisdom, peace and understanding. The first film is a short introduction to Songtsam and the region, and the second is a longer exploration of the full circuit of hotels and lodges built in most beautiful locations in the mountains and deep valleys bordering northern Yunnan and Tibet.
Songtsam are committed to working closely with the communities where each hotel is located, using local crafts, skills and materials in the construction of the hotels and lodges; using local labour and produce, contributing to the local community and environment, and taking guests into the heart of these communities as well as the stunning geography of the region, and the spiritual culture.
Some additional footage for the editing was provided by Songtsam, and I was also supported in my filming by Yuden Norbu who shot drone material and second camera work. In addition to using location sound and field recordings of local music, additional soundtrack material comes courtesy of Tim Howle, and Tibetan songs by Dechen Shak Dagsay and Rexi Cai Rang Dan.
The work has been submitted to a number of international film festivals, extracts screened on Chinese television, and used as promotional material by Songtsam both online and at major international travel and tourism conferences. The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise won Best Nature and Eco-Tourism award at the International Tourism Film Fest, Bulgaria, in April 2019, and finalist in the Travel Video Guide category at Travel FilmFest, International Film Festival, Limassol, Cyprus in October 2019.
Winner: Best Independent Travel Video; Bronze Medal – Gateway to the Hidden Lands, Japan World’s Tourism Film Festival, Osaka, Japan, 27-28 February 2020.
Winner: Best Nature and Eco-Tourism Documentary – The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise, International Tourism Film Festival Bulgaria, 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise Finalist for Travel Film Fest, Limassol, Cyprus, 19-20 October, 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise selected for Zagreb Tourism Festival, Croatia, October, 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise selected for Deauville Green Awards, Normandy, France, 12-13 June , 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise selected for Terres Film Festival, Catalunya, Spain, 26 April – 5 May , 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise selected for Travel Film Russia Film Festival, Moscow, 17 April 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise selected for International Tour Film Festival, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, 16-18 April, 2019.
The Key to Yunnan’s Hidden Paradise and Gateway to the Hidden Lands selected for TourFilm Riga Film Festival, Latvia, 24 May, 2019.