Streaming: Piano to Zanskar mixes breathtaking vistas with artistic obsession at Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival

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      Streaming online from noon today (July 24) to Sunday (July 26) via Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival; tickets and infohere.

      Documentary filmmaker Michael Sulima could not have found a more unlikely and colourful subject for a film following a dangerous trek over the Indian Himalayas.

      Instead of a seasoned mountaineer, Desmond O'Keeffe is an eccentric 65-year-old piano tuner and teacher who has led an isolated existence in his London shop. But he becomes obsessed with trying to transport a 100-year-old Broadwood and Sons upright piano to a school in Lingshed, a village nestled high above sea level and surrounded by rocky peaks.

      This requires not only taking the instrument apart with painstaking care, but transporting its still-large pieces via a few young musicians, a ragtag team of yaks, and a small army of  sherpas. The result is a breathtakingly shot journey where the piano seems in constant peril.

      Sulima follows the trip along winding cliff side roads, until those roads end and the real hardship begins. It's an incredible slog, with grand expansive vistas that show the overwhelming beauty of the Himalayas--and how puny humans, with their wild obsessions, are. There are definite shades of Fitzcarraldo here, though O'Keeffe's gentle, funny, and slightly awkward musician has not a trace of Klaus Kinski's torment. Instead he seems to be trying to enact some sort of last meaningful act in his long career. And you can't help but root for him.

      Some of the best moments come when these outsiders connect with the culture here--trying to show what a piano is to a group of curious goat herders, or just stopping to dance with the sherpas to a turned-up radio on the roadside. And now that we're all stuck at home, it's a great time to join their adventure.