in progress
Salty Tea
Feature Documentary in progress

Growing up in a globalized world among the nomads of Tuva Aldyn (14) dreams of winning the main horse race, while Octargay (18) is learning to master her shamanic gift.

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It's an icy, winter night in the republic of Tuva. Shagaa, the New Year, is being celebrated and the men of the village have lit a fire on the sacred mountain to ask the spirits for a prosperous New Year. All of them wear modern clothes and have smartphones, but mentally they seem to have transported themselves back to the time of their nomadic and animist ancestors.

The light of the fire illuminates the face of 13-year-old Aldyn. He is in a critical age that the Touvians call "the time of heat". His father knows that it is time to send him to a nomad camp on the edge of the steppe, far from civilization, parents and the internet. The environment of the shepherds, will allow the teenager to learn how to control his passions. An ascetic and frugal life yet one that can be lived in freedom doesn't seem frightening to Aldyn. He has a goal: Prepare and possibly win the prestigious Naadym equestrian race which is gathering boys from 7 to 15 years old.

Octargay, 16 years old, looks out of the window at the red-colored mountain. Her mother is calling her: "We are waiting for you". Octargai puts on a headdress with falcon feathers and turns into a shaman. This gift of hers became apparent at the age of 12 when she started having hallucinations and noticed that she could make it rain and heal people. This year Octargai will try to take possession of her shamanic spirit once and for all.

Aldyn and Octargay could be seen as hybrid. Although they follow a normal school curriculum like a child would in Moscow, they also live in this very different nomadic world. They learn that "mankind" is only a tiny part of this complex world and that nature is inhabited by spirits and must therefore be respected.

Aldyn and Octargay seek a balance between technology and nature in their lives. Could their high degree of resilience, self-determination, responsibility and freedom be an example for their Western peers who are determined to take the future of the planet into their own hands?

The pressure on their shoulders is great. Tuva is the republic in the Russian Federation with the highest crime and poverty rate. Especially for children growing up in a nomadic family, it is a challenge to find a balance between the two identities - modern and traditional - or to make a clear decision.


Written and directed by SVETLANA RODINA and LAURENT STOOP

Director of Photography: LAURENT STOOP


Supported by Federal Office of Culture Switzerland, Filmfunding Bern, Cinéforom, Succes Passage Antenne SRG.