Upcoming Shows

We've been named as a official selection in the Southern Circuit of Filmmakers Tour, March 17-24.

Shows are in Hapeville, GA 3/17, Madison, GA 3/20, Orangeburg, SC 3/22, Gainsville, GA 3/23, and Manteo, NC 3/24.
Learn more by going to the SouthArts blog.

View the theatrical trailer for A Gift for the Village

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

from Jane, June 30th evening

Our time in Kathmandu is only accelerating in intensity, and I wanted to post a blog to celebrate our premiere at The Indigo Gallery in Kathmandu, just a few hours ago. Jenna Swann and Tom Landon and our Gift for the Village project are soon to be featured in a beautiful glossy magazine here in the Kathmandu Valley. We were interviewed in the garden just before the film showed tonight. And afterwards, a reporter from the Kathmandu Post (the valley's largest English-speaking newspaper) who watched the documentary interviewed us and wants to do a story on our film.

Indigo Gallery's owner and master of ceremonies, James Gambrione, and his beautiful wife Linda were unbelievably gracious and generous hosts in their grand film space, and our guests were an accomplished and varied group, with expat professors and Tibetan and Nepali academics, art critics, poets, service group representatives, and our porters Binod and Hare and Narayan (again), who all helped us reach Lo in 2007.

We had a rich question and answer session after the film, with Jenna videoing, and James and Linda want to set up another showing, perhaps at the American Embassy, perhaps at the Ambassador's private home.

We had a LOT of interest and joy in our audience after the film. It seems that what Jenna and Tom have made is really inspirational. The energy tonight was joyful. The bridge between our cultures is growing sturdier each time this film shows.

How beautiful for me personally to have our team there to support these moments. Jason and Sherrie, the porters all asked about you by name, and wish so much that you could be with us again on the long trek to Lo. Do you remember the Dog Lady in Kagbeni, who made the dog warning signs? She came to our Indigo Gallery premiere!

Tom, cheers! It is good to know that you and Beth and Max and Will and Lucky Dog are back from Harvard. Roanoke is lucky to have you home.

Lisa Mullins, our gorgeous narrator, if and when you read this blog, I'm not telling you what present we got for you in Kathmandu today, but BE EXCITED! It is so amazing to have our work carried by your incredible voice. Huge thanks to you for your faith in our script and in our story.

And Suzi Gablik, to have you here, in the film, makes me feel so comforted and thrilled. Without your mind and your work and your love, I don't think I could have understood Art and the Big Picture (to quote the title of one of my favorite pieces of your writing) soon enough to help accomplish the correct ripening of our work.

To our family and friends, and to my Virginia Tech Creative Process students especially, we all send our love. Tashi deleg, Jane

News coverage in Nepal

Here's a link to a story on our film that appeared on a South Asian news website.

Kathmandu Premiere: Jane on the 30th

June 30 from Jane

Our days are so full that we cannot remember which events happened two days ago. Before I could write this blog, I had to check in with Emerson, whose handsome burgundy handmade book from Jenna is the team’s best journal-record of our tracks.

We all go to sleep so tired that the effort to pull our sheets down at night feels like pulling back the rock slab to enter the dark cave.

TWO days ago was Jenna’s birthday. What a day! Three years ago on June 28th was the Festival of the Gift for the Village. This year, we premiered our documentary.

In the morning, we navigated ordering breakfast in the front courtyard of the Guest House. Ordinarily a blissful and sensible retreat, for a little while the courtyard was where the crow of madness happened to be perched. A sample: We would like a pot of ginger tea, please. Sorry, Madame, we don’t do pots. But just last night we had pots of tea! Sorry, Madame: what you want is not possible. Thirty seconds later, Reba comes out and says: May I order a pot of tea? Why not, madame? What you like? Then Jane tries to make a substitution, no fresh fruit but instead one scrambled egg. Two kitchen conferences are convened. The request is not possible. Why not, exactly? Explanation: we are not moving the items. Then a new waiter arrives, with a notepad, nearly manic: but what are your room numbers, and is your breakfast included with your room? We don’t know. We are all happily surprised that each room is approved as breakfast-included, until Mika names her and Ashleigh’s room number, which is directly under Reba’s, and the same kind of room. Quick retaliatory answer: NO. No, Madame: you are NOT approved. Apparently Mika’s room is accursed, but probably only for that hour.

It is very sweet for me to see my half-Swedish former Virginia Tech student castigated to the realm of the inexplicably unapproved, only to smile with the pleasure of observing the mirage. Mika is doing a brilliant job on her first trip to Nepal. We are going to miss her sorely when she diverges from the group, to be driven up and over the valley, on her own, past Gurkha village, to Besisahar, the start of the horseshoe-shaped Annapurna Circuit—the favorite trek of the British Royals. As I write, Jenna is teaching Mika yoga on the Guest House Garden lawn, where Ashleigh was already up, practicing early, with the docile Guest House mother cat curled on the edge of her mat.

After breakfast, we were seated at the dignitaries’ table at Gurkha Encounters to review with Mingma Sherpa the trek tailored for our group: how many porters, where to bargain for the horse we’ll need just in case for Mary and/or Ella, where we meet our guide out west, and what vegetarians want to be sure the porters remember (no chicken broth in our ramen noodles, please). For lunch, we sang happy birthday at Pilgrim’s and ordered masala dosas (onionskin-thin lentil crepes bigger than the old New York Times with its pages open, rolled and stuffed with potato curry, with tomato and coconut chutneys, and rasam, spicy local vegetable soup). Jenna got chocolate-covered m&m pretzels and chocolate bars, among her birthday haul.

We visited our friend Sunil’s cashmere sweater and silk scarf shop and picked out unbelievable gifts, and only Jenna’s stern demand made Sunil accept any of our money.

Emerson and I visited Gem’s Empire, where a Nepali Muslim old friend of mine, Firoz, talked life and politics and religion with my lion-hearted son. They exchanged e-mail addresses, and made a connection heart-to-heart. I like doing business within the context of emotion. I also like bargaining when I see jewels that I could not have even dreamed existed. Only in our other friend Mr. Bhatt’s shop do we never bargain, because we are already taking his pieces at shameful friend-prices. But with Firoz, there is ritual bargaining, and it was a pretty struggle. I won, and so did he.

And then, in the late afternoon, our group reconverged at the Kathmandu Guest House for the world premiere of A Gift for the Village.

To be honest, I think no filmmakers anywhere in the world have ever had a richer and more satisfying and amazing film premiere than what we experienced. It was thrilling.

The Guest House Film Hall is relatively small, but the roster of attendees—let alone the responses after the film—held so many honors for us that I can say the feeling of that night will always rank among the most amazing times of my life, and I am sure for Jenna as well, and Tom, for you, too—our film shot straight home, like that arrow in Jomsom, a perfect bull’s-eye.

Who came? On her last night before leaving with her beautiful half-French, half-Tibetan daughter Clara Dolma, Anne Lelong, the accomplished photographer and patron of children in the rough western Nepali region on Dolpo. Maya, the street vendor, who is one of hundreds of poor trinket-sellers who are usually depicted as just the accosters of tourists, but who, three years ago, tried to sell Jenna little purses. Jenna, instead of brushing her aside, said to Maya: I am here for a week, and I will not buy these purses from anyone but you. Until then, you can greet me without trying to sell to me. We can just speak to one another as friends, and at the end of our trip, I will buy from you. Not only did Jenna keep that promise, but she accepted an invitation to Maya’s “house.” This kind of crossing of the boundaries almost never happens, but leave it to Jenna to have penetrated the veneer. That street-vendor, so easily a nobody in our experience, was at our premiere, and was introduced to everyone, and had a GREAT time. She LOVED A Gift for the Village, and we were so honored to have her sweet presence. Our guide Narayan was there (who is in the film in several shots), with his breathtaking young daughter, Nikita. The chief musician whose Nepali music plays in our film was there, BEAMING to hear his music. Several of the Guest House management were there, including Uttam, whose responses meant incredibly much to me personally. Cy Kassoff was there, my cousin, who translated for us when we were in the King of Lo’s Palace in 2007. Sunil Shahi was there, who is like family to us. Radhakrishna was there, the little boy we met on a walk in 2000, now a young man. A Swiss couple were there, who had heard about our film. Our new friend Helen, a world traveler from Portand, Oregon. Mingma Sherpa was there, representing Gurkha Encounters, whose Buddhist roots and home near Boudhanath stupa made him a formidable audience member, if anyone were going to see inauthenticity in any little moment of the film. Our team was there. My son was there. My girl Iris was there in spirit. And others.

We were overwhelmed by the emotional responses to A Gift for the Village. People loved the story, loved the art, loved our connection and tribute to Virginia Tech, loved hearing the reasons for our dedications, simple LOVED our film.

I got some of the strongest hugs I have ever gotten, and Jenna and I were showered with the heartfelt thanks of people whose hearts we love and admire.

In our documentary, Jenna speaks at one point about what it was like for us to bring a painting about Nepal to Nepalis, potentially quite a critical audience. And at the premiere of our film about Nepal, in Nepal, with many Nepalis of so many different backgrounds in our audience, I really found so much joy with Jenna, and Tom with us in spirit, and all of our family and friends who have followed our long efforts to make this story possible—so much genuine joy in being the bearers of A Gift for the Village.

Let me speak for a moment about the dedications in our film. The film is dedicated in four parts: for His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, who turns 75 this year in July; we are so grateful for His blessings to our project. For the great people of Nepal—and they ARE great. I have traveled here for 25 years, from the time BBW (before bottled water), to now, the time ACP (after cell phones)—and I know some of the sad shorelines where some parts of the old culture are weathered and eroded day by day, choked now from the polluting grip of industrialization.

I have one friend who has always been my teacher by doubting the effect of my being here at all: as if by being here, I AM inevitably the degradation and the pollution of what I encounter. Maybe. But I believe in bridges, and in right livelihood, and in the power of ambassadorial presence. The great people of Nepal have made us all rich, but I think that Jenna’s and Tom’s film is a real gift in return, and as Georgia O’Keeffe has said, To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

The film is also dedicated to our friend Cindy Goad, who died before our team traveled here in 2007. Her sister is our team’s still photographer, Sherrie Austin. We miss you here, Sherrie, and we remember Cindy. Her gorgeous smile, her stunning heart.

And our film is dedicated to my beautiful student Morgan Harrington. Morgan’s ashes are going with me wherever I go, and I will see to their ritual honor in the west of Nepal, where she had wanted to travel with us. I miss you, Morgan, but you are with us. To Morgan’s parents, Gil and Dan, I am with you. And your story has moved the hearts of our dear friends in Nepal. We are proud to be arm-in-arm with you.

After the film, we rickshawed to Sunil’s house. Rickshawing through Kathmandu is like bicycling in an acid trip (I do NOT speak from experience). The feast at Sunil’s was the greatest birthday party Jenna could ever have been given. A thousand appetizers, ten thousand dishes, and uncountable joys. Sunil’s daughter-in-law Arundhati is due to have Sunil’s first grandchild on my birthday (July 26). Yet she cooked with Sarita and made us feel so much at home. Jenna had a huge birthday cake and, from Sunil’s rooftop, a view of a spotlit Swayambhunath stupa against a starry Kathmandu valley sky.

As we walked back to the Guest House from Sunil’s, down alleys where no tourist walks, we saw the Kathmandu that the locals still own, the women asleep on burlap in the cool of the evening, the boys talking around small fires, the street dogs finally at ease (except for the one who did not love Mika). I saw Ashleigh walking ahead and thought how glad I am for this incredible 25-year-old to be taking in the real Nepal, as unlikely as it is for any foreigner to have gained such access, and as representative as the city can be of a mostly utterly rural Himalayan country. As we walked, a car came by, and it happened to be Raj Bajgain, our friend, and a leader of social causes in Nepal, a champion for women, children, the destitute, and the environment. He rolled down his window and pointed to Jenna, giving her one last amazing birthday gift. With his bright smile, he said, simply, “Big film maker!”

And though we had a really late night, and fell to bed dizzy, we had the desk give us wake-up calls for 4:00 a.m. Sunil arranged three cars, and all of us, and Sunil and his wife Sarita, and our Oregonian friend Helen, headed the hour and fifteen minutes up to the rim of the valley. In peak season (October to January), the views from Nagarkot village on the rim of the valley are stunning panoramic Himalayan eye-candy. Our view was more a landscape of sweet fog and hill, with a two-hour walk through pine forest, cicada song, mica and black tourmaline-encrusted rock, fern and rhododendron, wild marijuana and canna lilies, red hibiscus and tall ageraturm, oversized lantana and mango trees. I loved walkin g with Mary, telling her about geology and flora and fauna, and how learning a new culture impacts the way your imagination works from now on. On a side-trail with Cy, Emerson noticed a dog acting unsettled and staring at a bush. No wonder. Out emerged a long black cobra, the length of two trekking poles, moving to his destination at leisure. Lions can be kings, but so can cobras be. Well done to Emerson for reading the dog’s behaviour and stepping back before the appearance of the snake.

We walked to the oldest temple complex in the valley, Changunarayan, with its famous carved god and goddess struts on the famous ancient wooden and brick Newari pagodas (pagodas originated in the Kathmandu Valley, not in Japan). What a walk, to what complex clusters of shrines, old and worn down from the worship-smudges of red and yellow tilak powder, like the stone shrine of Hanuman, the god whose mother was a monkey and whose father was the wind: Hanuman’s monkey face is now a soft unfeatured formless bald of stone, eroding for reasons of centuries of loving touch.

I will stop for now. A girl can’t keep writing when Mr. Bhatt’s Tibetan stone shop is so close by. Our team sends love to each of you reading. We head to Pokhara if the cloud-gods agree on July 3rd, are there for three nights at Hotel Kantipur (Google it! We get a big friend-discount), and then move to high country, where the spirit of Tibet still lives despite the new roads and clog of vehicles we are hearing spoils so much of the lower Annapurna trails, and despite fifty years of Tibetan occupation to the north. Thanks to everyone remembering us. Jane

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Mary

Hello, Namaste!
It took a while before I finnaly got to blog here but I'm finaly doing it now. Nepal is a place that very few people will ever get to see, but is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not to mention the crazy taxi rides. Wow! I feel safe as long as a Nepali is driving but if an American were driving....... Watch out! The sights in Bhaktapur, a ancient village with many hand carved statues, windows, and even had royal baths with nagas all around the edges,(which art collecters sadly stole the heads of,) but two brass ones were saved. there was a peacock window, that was absolutly stunning, (again art collecters stole the head,) and the statues were amazing. Just today I brought a drawing of a Kangaruchi, which I drew myself, to a shop where they sew designs on shirts and other things, and Ella brought a drawing of, who else, but Leo. They took the drawings, and used them to expertly put identical drawings of stiches on the shirts. It was amazing to see them do some of the work. Well, We have to go, so I'll try to blog later about our new Nepali adventures.

From Reba

Namaste Everyone!
Sorry it took us so long to blog, but when we came last night to do it, I had the password wrong and couldn't get in.
The trip over was long, and we had to endure security checks of our bags at every single airport, even though we were in transit and had not left the airport since our last flight, we still had to put our bags through xray and walk through the metal detectors. When we finally arrived in Kathmandu, the gentleman who was manning the xray machine would not let Ella and Mary put their bags on the belt, he just motioned for them to walk on through, smiling sweetly at them.
Sunil and Sarita were waiting on us when we arrived at the airport, seeing them brought lots of hugs and a few tears of joy. Sunil rode with us the to the Kathmandu Guest House where we checked in then walked to Swyambunath (spelling is iffy) where we walked up 403 steps.(yes, we counted) But after all that time sitting on the plane it was good to walk. We saw many sights along the way, including a huge pig rummaging through a large pile of garbage (their refuse system needs work) and several monkeys with babies. (We got video!)
Yesterday we went to Bhaktapur (again the spelling!) which is a very old village in Kathmandu. The buildings there are over 500 years old! I love this place, because this is where I met the sweetest kids when I was here the last time, and this time was no different. This tiny little girl with a red dress approached us and asked for a rupee or a "sweet". I couldn't resist her, she was so little, and cute, and bold. So I gave her a coin and asked if I could take her picture...she happily obliged. I have a great shot of Ella with her.
I also ended up buying another singing bowl because I just could not say no to this man who I'm sure was selling me a sad story about how he had NO business that day and he was selling it to me at his cost. (yeah, right!) But he was so sweet about following me up the street, dropping the price from 1000 rupees to 700 that I could not say no to him.
Today is Jenna's birthday! We had lunch at Pilgrims which is a bookstore near the guest house that has a restaurant in the back. After an interesting conversation between Emerson and Ella about greek mythology (Ella's knowledge came from watching the Percy Jackson movie)
Jane created two new goddesses of her own: Dialysis and Sarasquatter. Those of you who know Jane can imagine the relevance of those names. Please ask her about them when you see her. :)
Our first movie premiere is in about 20 minutes, so we have to get back to the guest house. Mary and Ella are treated special wherever we go, they even got little gifts from the clerk at Pilgrims when we checked out.
They are both doing GREAT. I am so proud of them, although I give Emerson most of the credit for them being happy here so far.
All our love to everyone.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jane 6/27

Hello Our Friends, It is Jane, typing on the laptop provided by her VT student Bailey. We can’t believe we have been at the Guest House for only one night so far, because our time has been unbelievably packed already.

Last night Jenna and I had a call while we were in our room: it was Radhakrishna, the little 12-year-old boy we met ten years ago while we were hiking along the rim of the valley. He was a village boy who wandered up to and walked for hours with us, under eucalyptus trees and through sal and strangler fig forests, on goat-herder trails, from one temple village to another—the Nagarkot to Changunarayan trek. In 1999 we exchanged addresses and parted after that friendly chance meeting. Tomorrow, this young man, now 22 and in his second year of medical school, will come to the premiere of A Gift for the Village. What a nice birthday present for Jenna!

Last night was the healing deep sleep we needed after our two days of flying to arrive here. This morning we woke early, to the loud grey-headed crows, the silent thin mother cat and her huge-eared nursing kitten, and the forlorn three-legged monkey, all resting in the security of the Guest House garden, with its Buddha statues, terracotta lotus pool,, pomelo and pomegranate trees. We can’t see the pomelo tree without thinking of Joey, who was one year old when he came to the festival in 2007, and who pointed up at the green grapefruit-like shapes then and declared “ball!” We will ALWAYS see this beautiful tree as Joey’s Ball Tree. Jenna and I found yoga mats and were our on the lawn by 5:30, to find Ashleigh already doing yoga in another part of the garden. Mika, Emerson, and Reba and the girls wandered out eventually, rested and happy, ready for pots of masala chai.

At 8 a.m. we met Andrea Clearfield and Katey Blumenthal here at the Guest House. Jenna met Andrea on Facebook, an amazing musical composer who is working on a composition called Lung-ta, which is Tibetan for Wind-horse, the kind of horse whose hooves never touch the ground, and who carries mind-jewels on its saddle. Lung-ta is the carrier of hope and wisdom, and it gallops like wind toward clear minds. Katey is a brilliant young anthropologist who had just traveled back from Lo with Andrea, and so these two women could bring us fresh news from the Forbidden Kingdom, where we will travel in mid-July. Andrea told us that everyone in Lo knows about our visit and can’t wait to see the film. After many years of hoping we could one day take our completed film to Lo, and show it to the King, we are now expected. The breakfast with these women was full of confluent interests, and all of us feel sure we have some collaborative projects ahead. And then we showed them A Gift for the Village (they leave tomorrow for a conference in Germany), They were really moved, and gave us gorgeous responses. These women are doing work as close as ours to the Tibetan inspirations that have excited our project, so their excitement at our film was really gratifying.

Later this morning, Sunil helped us drive across the valley to explore the old kingdom-city of Bhaktapur, where Mary especially loved the famous elaborately carved peacock windows and Ella worked with no prompting as a serious photographer. For Emerson, visiting Bhaktapur was a trip down his rich memory lane. He remembered so many of the winding narrow medieval alleys that he last walked as an eight-year-old, and he enjoyed the wizened faces of old villagers almost as much as the loving company of his steady young Hoffman companions. Jenna had her video camera close on some amazing moments, an ironsmith hammering, a potter rotating a wheel with a pole, and who knows what else. Reba is relaxed and thrilled to watch her daughters seeing so well and feeling so at home. Mika took some of the most amazing photographs I have ever seen—a pile of chilies drying or a child’s face. Asheigh made friends constantly, and a lot of children in Bhaktapur will remember the friendly young American woman who really talked to them.

I drew a sketch of a possible design for our new team patch today, and Jenna took it to a tailor who will have a sample made for us tomorrow. This time, A Gift for the Village patch will feature a snow leopard in front of a snow-capped mountain, in front of which hang the five colors of Tibetan prayer flags.

Tomorrow is Jenna’s birthday. Our dinner will be at Sunil’s house. We will each therefore gain twenty pounds from Sarita’s amazing feast! More soon! Jane

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Hi Friends and Family,
We are here and VERY VERY tired. In fact Mary and Ella about fell asleep in their soup tonight. Our first adventure was walking to the Monkey Temple with our dear dear friend Sunil. We have just run into the musician who plays a song in the documentary. He will come to the show on the 28th. So will several friends we have already made since we arrived, and several other old friends, including Mr. Bhatt, our beloved jeweler, who knows that he makes an appearance in the documentary.

Our flights over were all comfortable (at least for those of us with short legs) and it was fun to watch Mary and Ella as they looked out of the plane window and asked Jenna, "What are those white things down there?" "Clouds," Jenna told them.

We are well. We have spun giant prayer wheels already, watched tiny baby monkeys ride their loyal mothers, and eaten our first fine dinner at The Third Eye, where Emerson had his first bowl of special Nepali tomato soup in twelve years, and where his cousin Cy joined us.

Jason, Sherrie, and Tom, we miss you! You should have been sitting across from us on the rooftop. It is hard not having out team with us.

Can't wait to report as our days play out! J and J

Monday, June 21, 2010

from Jenna: pre-departure

Friends and Family,

In four days I leave for Nepal with Jane, her son Emer, Reba, her two girls Mary and Ella, and two other friends Ashley and Mika. We will be in Kathmandu for a week. While there will will have three showings of our documentary, two at the Kathmandu Guest house and one at the Indigo Gallery.

Our next stop will be Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal. After that we head out west to the village of Jomsom where the festival took place. We plan to show the documentary there as well. The final phase of our journey is the long trek into Upper Mustang (12 days of walking, 155 miles, over 16,000 ft peaks). We now know that there is one generator, a projector and a Monastery wall where we can show our movie to the king (who is in the documentary) and to the rest of the villagers.

I may not check email after the 24th, so follow the journey here and to comment if you'd like....

We are also on FB, (be our friend) and may post there if it proves to be easier than this bog.

To see a trailer from the new documentary film: www.youtube.com and search "A gift for the village, Jane Vance".
If you are interested in looking over the team website from the trip 3 years ago, it's at: www.agiftforthevillage.com

See you in August. Have a wonderful summer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remembering Morgan

Yesterday Jane spent the morning with Gil Harrington at her home. Gil's daughter, Morgan Harrington, who was missing for 101 days before her body was discovered five months ago, had just been one of Jane's much-loved Creative Process students at Virginia Tech, and our film remembers her in its dedication. Thanks to Gil, herself an oncology nurse, and her husband Dr. Dan Harrington, in one week from today, our team will be carrying a load of precious supplies to villagers in extremely rural Himalayan villages: reading glasses, collapsible water carriers, solar and crank flashlights, retractable kitchen knives, sewing kits, birthing kits, and more. We wish to thank our friends the Harringtons for these donations and for their interest in our work.
Please visit Gil Harrington's beautiful and brave blog posts at www.findmorgan.com.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A new article from Planet Blacksburg!

As some members of our team prepare to return to Nepal to show our film to Nepali audiences, Planet Blacksburg, an online "paper," wrote an article on Jane that explains the project nicely.