Stanzin Dorjai Gya hails from a remote village in northeastern India situated at more than15,000 feet in the High Himalayas. Like other children of Gya Village, Stanzin had a semi-nomadic childhood, spending half of the month tending his family’s herd of yaks and cashmere goats, while attending school during the other half. In 1995, unable to pass the necessary standardized tests to complete high school, Stanzin began attending an alternative school, SECMOL ( Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh.) Dedicated to teaching students in a non-traditional setting (the students have built the campus themselves using environmentally-friendly materials) SECMOL ignited Stanzin’s passion for film. He earned his Bachlor of Arts degree at Jammu University in 2005. Later, he met Christiane Mordelet, a French filmmaker, and has henceforth worked in close collaboration with her, together producing internationally-acclaimed, award-winning films.
The founder of the Himalayan Film House in Leh, Stanzin has directed and produced notable feature films and documentaries on regional, national and international issues.
In 2008, Stanzin Dorjai Gya and Christiane Mordelet created “Living With Change” a documentary produced for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India about the effects of global warming in Ladakh, earning international awards. In 2012, Himalayan Film House in collaboration with Lato Sensu Production house in France produced “Jungwa: The Broken Balance," a remarkable documentary based on the August 2010 flash floods which devastated Leh. The film earned numerous awards across international platforms, including Banff Mountain Film Festival before being selected for screening at the United Nation’s COP21 Paris Conference in 2015. “Jungwa” and “Living with Change” were both shown at COP21 and became critical messengers of what Ladakh and the Himalayan region have gone through due to climate change.
His recent documentary, “The Shepherdess of the Glaciers” pays homage to his sister’s life in carrying forward his family’s solitary nomadic way of life as shepherds working high in the High Himalayas. Braving temperatures of -32 °C, heavy snowfall and a 30 kg load of film equipment at an altitude of 16,000 feet, he has told his sister’s story with unfiltered honesty and compassion. The documentary has received more than 20 awards, both at home and abroad, with the highlight being the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2016.
selected interviews with Stanzin Dorjai Gya
How to Make A film with Limited Resources II, Stanzin Dorjai, TWD II,
Barcha, Fatima Ashraf, "In Conversation With Stanzin Dorjai (Gya)," Reach India, 3/15/2016