Vultures of Tibet

Vultures of Tibet1000-2

Russell Bush
2013 | 21 min | US, Tibet, China
Director in Attendance

This deeply affecting film illustrates the ideological issues facing modern Tibet through the sacred funeral tradition of Sky Burial, in which Tibetans ritually feed their dead to wild Griffon Vultures. Rampant commercialization of culture has led to visitors photographing and filming private ceremonies against families’ wishes; a portrait emerges of a country caught in the crossfire of tradition and tourism.

Preceded by the Mead Mixer, a daily happy hour in Cafe on One from 6-7:30 pm

Co-presented by the Tibet House and the Rubin Museum of Art

Plays with Tender

Past Forward, My Perspective

"My film VULTURES OF TIBET explores the commercialization of the ancient Tibetan funeral rite of Sky Burial (Jhator) in which the bodies of the dead are ritually fed to wild griffon vultures. With the proliferation of the tourism industry in Tibet, travelers pay money to witness, photograph and videotape the last physical impact of ones life. It is estimated that Sky Burial has been practiced for over a thousand years in Tibet – yet in the last several the nature of the tradition has changed drastically; sitting in a confluence of politics, spirituality, the natural world and industry.

In Tibet, the modernization process through the visions of Tibetans has been significantly interrupted and re-directed through the involvement of Chinese and other foreign influences. Myself, a foreign filmmaker in Tibet, I hope to illuminate the Tibetan subjectivity to the outside world and encounter the audience with the influence voyeurism may have on an insular culture; and to that extent our own.

As a cultural outsider (a Caucasian male from North America) I would feel out of place commenting on the Tibetan and Chinese cultures’ necessity one way or the other to break with the past in order to embrace the future. In the case of my film, this is a question best answered by Tibetans and Chinese from Tibet and China. I would offer however that more so than positioning the current realities of Sky Burial amongst its history, VULTURES OF TIBET engages the viewer with the potential for oppression bound in the act of observation. I would invite audiences to view my film not so much as a window through which we makes judgments about the world from our own cultural lens – but rather as a mirror onto our own observation and thereby the cultures we influence.

I would aspire that as travelers, viewers, filmmakers and anthropologists we might engage the implications of our own past to chart a future more self aware of the implications of our presence."

- Russell Bush | Director, Vultures of Tibet