Drokpa: Nomads of Tibet
Drokpa: Nomads of Tibet
Drokpa: Nomads of Tibet
Drokpa: Nomads of Tibet
Drokpa: Nomads of Tibet

Drokpa: Nomads of Tibet

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    • Directed by: Yan Chun Su
    • Released: 2018 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2016
Running Time: 79 min + 57 min classroom version
Format: NTSC DVD
Language: English
Accessibility: Includes English SDH
Subjects: Asian Studies, Anthropology, Environmental Studies
"Recommended" - Video Librarian

Set in the high plateau of eastern Tibet, Drokpa is an intimate portrait of the lives and struggles of Tibetan nomads whose life is on the cusp of irreversible change.

The grasslands of the Tibetan plateau are home to the source of Asia’s major rivers. Nearly half of humanity depends on this water for survival. Tibetan nomads, known as DROKPA have roamed on this land for thousands of years. In recent decades, these once lush grasslands are rapidly turning into deserts.

With rare access to an extended nomadic family living at the center stage of this drastic and historical change, Drokpa reveals the unprecedented environmental and sociopolitical forces that are pushing the Tibetan nomads to the edge of their existence.

Richly observed daily lives and family relationships, especially those of Tamku, a teenage single mother, Dhongya, a senior nomad and Yithan, a mother of two boys are at once deeply personal and illustrative of the universal issues of gender, freedom, adaptation to a changing climate and the resilience of human spirits.

RECOMMENDED by Video Librarian

"Yan Chun Su’s documentary spans several years in the lives of an extended family of nomads whose traditional occupation—raising yaks and sheep in the high plateau of eastern Tibet, sometimes called the “Roof of the World”—is endangered by environmental change and government pressure. Dhongya, chief herder of the clan, mourns the transformation of much of the once-lush grassland into desert since rainfall has decreased, while new laws restrict the family to a relatively small pasture, making their migratory lifestyle impossible. Following the family as they set up their tents for the season, Su concentrates not merely on the men who oversee the animals, but also the children who play in the fields, and the women who must constantly tend to the housework—including Yithan, who worries about the future of her two sons; Magyuk, whose sons have departed for work elsewhere and whose daughter Asu yearns to abandon the nomadic life; and Tamku, a divorced teenager with a child. Drokpa presents an informative and affecting portrait of a tribe whose way of life is being rendered untenable by forces that they barely understand and cannot resist. At the same time, it also underscores an ecological problem with wider ramifications since the plateau where nomads have labored for centuries also serves as the source of water that fills many of Asia’s rivers. Presented in both the full-length version and a 57-minute abridgement, this is recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)"


"Breathtakingly beautiful..." - Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

"With balance and equanimity, the narrative fully reveals the complexities of colonialism, patriarchy, and climate change without judgment." - DOXA Documentary film Festival 

Awards & Official Selections

DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Best Female Directed Feature Documentary

Margaret Mead Film Festival, Margaret Mead Filmmaker Nomination

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, Best of the Fest

Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

Athens International Film + Video Festival

Boulder International Film Festival

Human Rights Film Festival Barcelona

Anchorage International Film Festival

Trento Film Festival

DOCUTAH International Film Festival

Matsalu Nature Film Festival

Buddhist Film Festival Europe

Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival

Environmental Film Festival Australia

Colorado Environmental Film Festival

Salt Spring Film Festival

Green Mountain Film Festival

World Film Festival

Ethnografilm Paris

Director's Statement

"I wanted to find a group of people living very close to a visibly changing environment so that in a microcosmic and direct way, we see what the future might be like for us all...” – director, Yan Chun Su

About the Filmmaker

Yan Chun Su is a self-taught documentary filmmaker currently based in Colorado. She was born in China and received her education in both China and the US. After a career in computer science, her interests in traditional cultures and the environment have taken her to work with and live among many indigenous communities around the world. Her first documentary film, Treasure of the Lisu, about an ethnic musician from the foothills of the Himalayas was made under the tutelage of acclaimed documentarian Les Blank. Drokpa, a documentary about Tibetan nomads facing ecological and cultural survival is her first feature-length documentary. Filmed at the eastern Tibetan plateau among one extended nomadic family for over four years, Drokpa premiered at the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC in October 2016 and it received the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Feature film at the 2017 DOXA Documentary Film Festival.