Snow Leopard

EAFFI 2024: Snow Leopard Review

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I’m late to this one unfortunately, life got in the way, but here is my review of Snow Leopard. This is a film that came out in 2023 and was the last film of Pema Tseden. It tells the story of a captured snow leopard and those around it. It was shown during the annual East Asia Film Festival to an excited audience.

Snow Leopard has a seemingly simple premise. A farmer has captured a snow leopard because one night it killed 9 rams. The farmer, Jinpa is irrate and wishes to kill the wild beast. Unfortunately for him, the snow leopard is an endangered species and if any harm befalls it while on his property he will be in a lot of trouble.

A camera crew, who are friends of his brother, are documenting it for the local regional news and they have first-class seats to see how this all plays out. After all, Jinpa desperately wants to be compensated for his losses. 9 rams are quite priceless in Jinpa’s eyes and he hates this creature so much, at one point stating it was drunk with all the blood it drank.

It’s a wild beast, I’ll kill it

Snow Leopard is a fascinating film about balance. Balance in life, love, career and ultimately nature. Jinpa’s brother Nyima is a monk affectionately known as the “Snow Leopard Monk” because he has become famous for being around these beautiful creatures. Throughout the film, Nyima seems to have a connection with the creature. We have several flashbacks where Nyima and the leopard help each other out. There is a definite spiritual connection and it’s quite sweet.

On the other side of the pendulum though is Jinpa who is completely bent out of shape because of what has happened to his farm. His rage and greed slowly consume him and because of it, he begins to lose more. He loses out on money because he tries to separate the leopard from the remaining sheep. Also, he loses a lot of composure and dignity because of not understanding the scope of the situation he is in.

There are also characters like Dradul who also has to figure out balance with his career and his relationship with his girlfriend. This continues the theme of balance within the film and it’s peaceful. There is no unnecessary drama here and it’s appreciated.

One of the best parts of the film though is its cinematography. The film was shot in the Tibetan Plateau and it is absolutely gorgeous. One particular scene involving Tongri Tsonak Lake was spellbinding. It’s a testament to shooting on location, showcasing that sets can never truly capture the beauty of real locations.

With a simple premise complimented by a deep narrative theme, Snow Leopard is a brilliant film that I’m so happy I saw.

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