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Review: 'Pad Yatra' is a call to save the planet

One likes to imagine the sparsely populated sweep of the glacially prominent Himalayas — often called the "third pole" — as an expanse of nature unspoiled by litter. But in 2010, a 700-person-strong trek across 450 miles of the range starting in Ladakh, India — where a freakish cloudburst that year ravaged the area — yielded half a ton of plastic trash, reports a new film of the journey, "Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey."

Led by Buddhist spiritual leader His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, the environmentally minded journey — the title is a term meaning pilgrimage by foot — was designed to educate villagers across the region on the effect of climate change, the careless use of non-biodegradable materials and the benefits of renewable action like planting trees. Director Wendy J.N. Lee, who made the grueling trek with a solar-powered camera operated by a monk, provides plenty of breathtaking footage and a strong sense of both the journey's illuminative highs and treacherous (as in altitude and terrain) lows. 

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Noted eco-activist Daryl Hannah narrates, while engaging first-person accounts from Lee's sister Carrie — a fellow traveler — help the film convey its gently turned message of imbuing "ecological compassion" firsthand to the most remote places.

"Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 8 minutes. At Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills.  

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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