Mustang: Journey of Transformation

Mustang - Journey of Transformation premiered November 2009.

Mustang - Journey of Transformation is a 30-minute documentary that tells the remarkable story of a Tibetan culture pulled back from the brink of extinction through the restoration of its most sacred sites. Narrated by Richard Gere, the film features interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the King of Mustang, and Luigi Fieni, the chief art conservator of Mustang's ancient Buddhist masterpieces

Tenpa Chirim ceremonyTenpa Chirim, or Tiji, is an annual three-day masked dance ceremony, considered the most important Buddhist festival of Mustang. The festival is a fervent prayer for peace and stability.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang lies on a high and windswept plateau between northwestern Nepal and Tibet in one of the most remote regions in the world. Although Mustang is culturally and ethnically Tibetan, politically it is part of Nepal. At a time when Tibetan culture in Tibet is in danger of disappearing under China's occupation, Mustang remains uniquely preserved. This starkly beautiful place is home to one of the last surviving repositories of Tibetan sacred art from the 15th century. To travel here is to journey into the past where one can witness ancient Tibetan ways of life.

Because our land is filled with untouched monasteries from the 15th century and our government is based on Buddhist teachings, some say we are the last remaining Tibetan kingdom.
     —  Jigme Palbar Bista, King of Mustang

In 1991 Nepal opened Mustang's border to the outside world. What the first visitors found was shocking — the ancient monasteries were on the verge of collapse; the Buddhist wall paintings were disintegrating; the community was deeply impoverished. The people needed health care, education, and jobs. Surprisingly, the King's first plea to outsiders offering help was to save the monasteries. The King understood...saving the art would save the people, because without cultural identity there is nothing. Mustang - Journey of Transformation is a tale of hope and rebirth told by the people who are helping save this once Forbidden Kingdom.

Restoration of Priceless Mandalas Talented Loba trainees restore priceless Mandalas in Jampa Lhakhang. Over 100 Loba men and women have been trained in the art and science of restoration.
Mustang was once a great religious center. But the monasteries had fallen into disrepair and when one went inside, it made you sad to see the condition they were in. Without this restoration work everything would have just collapsed within 30 or 40 years.
     — Tsewang Bista, Lo Gyalpo Jigme Foundation

Storytellers include John Sanday, world renowned architectural restoration specialist; Richard Blum, founder of the American Himalayan Foundation, the NGO that worked closely with the community to restore the monasteries and bring essential social services to the people; and Tsewang Bista, nephew of the King and a founder of the Lo Gyalpo Jigme Foundation, a local NGO that manages the restoration and humanitarian projects.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.
     — Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama

Royal Mustang Excursions has been leading treks to the Kingdom of Mustang since 1994. Run by Jigme S. P. Bista, Son of the King of Mustang, and his cousin Tsewang Jonden Bista, the company employs local residents as guides, porters, cooks, and horsemen. A percentage of all profits are given directly to support local development projects.

The American Himalayan Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports projects in health care, education, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation in the Himalayas. The ongoing restoration of the paintings in Thubchen and Champa monasteries shown in Mustang - Journey of Transformation is one such effort. Visit the AHF's Web site to learn more about its work and the region.

Tibet House is the premier Tibetan cultural institution in the U.S. To learn more about Tibet and its history visit You'll also find a detailed calendar of Tibet-related exhibits and activities going on year-round in the States.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet.

Filmmaker Will Parrinello of the Mill Valley Film Group has been producing and directing award winning documentaries for the past twenty five years.

Luigi Fieni is a Himalayan art conservator and still photographer. Luigi is the director of the the art restoration project in Mustang. His work has taken him to Bhutan, China and many other Asian countries.

Rich Kern & Steve Messina of the band Blow Up Hollywood composed the original score for Mustang - Journey of Transformation.

"Blow Up Hollywood mine a swooshy sort of ornateness that might be rooted in Pink Floyd, Radiohead, or Porcupine Tree: leaden emotion amid promising open spaces."
     — The Village Voice


Major Funding by:

The Bonderman Family Foundation

Additional Funding by:

Paul and Antje Newhagen
Nu Lambda Trust


 Produced by:


Milk Valley Film Group

© 2009 Mill Valley Film Group. All Rights Reserved. Text by Sarah Kass and Will Parrinello. Photos courtesy of Luigi Fieni and John Sanday.

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