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Short Film Review: Last Days of Summer (2023) by Stenzin Tankong

"I must admit these foreigners are geniuses"

Born in 1990, is a Film and Television graduate from the Symbiosis Centre of Media and Communication in Pune, India. He is a director and scriptwriter from Ladakh. He has been working on motion pictures for about five years and aims to bring the stories of his people and culture onto the world platform. “Last Days of Summer” is his first professional film.

Last Days of Summer is screening at Indian Film Festival Los Angeles

The film begins with a man, Dhundap, laying on the ground in sunglasses, looking at the sky, talking about the benefits of wearing such an ‘apparatus', which he seems to have gotten from a foreigner. It also seems to be talking to a goat and that he is actually a goat herder in the Himalayas. The next scene has him in his pen milking the animals, while talking with a woman about some of them missing, before a young boy who seems to be his brother, approaches him stating that he wants to be like him when he grows up.

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He and a number of others dealing with animals are living in a small compound of sorts, inside tents with a few photovoltaic panels being the only source of power. The protagonist starts discussing with some other men staying there about a sound he heard before, but he gets mocked, since no one seem to have ever heard the sound, not to mention he is wearing his sunglasses even though it is night. The next day, he talks to a girl, Angmo, about her performing a local folk dance, and the aforementioned sounds, flirting in his own way. A meeting between a number of people later highlights the issues the people face in the area, and the necessity of asking assistance from the government, with the climate change and the movement towards the urban centers emerging as the most significant one. The discussion about the sound continues.

The Himalayas are truly a place to be recorded on camera, and DP Jimet Wangchuk is doing his best in portraying it in the best fashion, with the long and mid-shots working particularly well, as does the sharp contrast. The imposing images of the mountains in particular, will definitely stay on mind.

Apart from this aspect, Stenzin Tankong follows a documentary-like approach, with the shaky camera and the focus on realism pointing directly towards this path. The issues regarding the people staying in this remote also move the context to this direction, as does the presentation of the mystery sound, although the director leaves that aspect somewhat open to interpretation. At the same time, at a closer look, one could connect the sunglasses with the sound in a rather pointed comment, which could have been better presented though.

On the other hand, there is also a somewhat excessive emphasis on local tradition, with the clothes, the singing, the dancing, while the character of Angmo is definitely underdeveloped.

in the protagonist role gives a very cool performance, in a style that reminds significantly of another Tibetan actor, , with him being both funny and serious depending on the occasion. Stenzin Tankong's editing results in a relatively fast pace that allows the director to make the most of the 15 minutes of the short.

Although it would definitely benefit from a bigger duration, “Last Days of Summer” is definitely as well shot as it is meaningful. Furthermore, it provides a glimpse into what the future of Tibetan cinema can be after the death of its champion, .

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

Panagiotis (Panos) Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer, specialized in Asian Cinema. He is the owner and administrator of Asian Movie Pulse, one of the biggest portals dealing with Asian cinema. He is a frequent writer in Hancinema, Taste of Cinema, and his texts can be found in a number of other publications including SIRP in Estonia, in Slovakia, Asian Dialogue in the UK, Cinefil in Japan and Filmbuff in India.

Since 2019, he cooperates with Thessaloniki Cinematheque in Greece, curating various tributes to Asian cinema. He has participated, with video recordings and text, on a number of Asian movie releases, for Spectrum, Dekanalog and Error 4444. He has taken part as an expert on the Erasmus+ program, “Asian Cinema Education”, on the Asian Cinema Education International Journalism and Film Criticism Course.

Apart from a member of FIPRESCI and the Greek Cinema Critics Association, he is also a member of NETPAC, the Hellenic Film Academy and the Online Film Critics Association.

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