HOLDING ON TO CULTURE
Rumored to be the descendants of Alexander the Great, the Kalash people have in fact inhabited northern Pakistan's Chitral valley since long before the legendary conqueror came to the region. They uphold a rich cultural heritage, with polytheistic beliefs, seasonal festivals, and a variety of other traditions that are at odds with Pakistan's dominant Islam. Today, even as the the majestic peaks of the Hindu Kush mountains shield the Kalasha from the region's worst violence, their culture faces a variety of pressures: poverty, tourism, and Islamism are all contributing to the erosion of Kalash identity. Still, a dedicated group of Kalash advocates are fighting to keep their culture alive.
In May 2013, director Iara Lee traveled to the Chitral valley to document the Kalash spring festival, Joshi. The Kalasha and the Crescent uses the festival as an entry point into this vibrant community and the tough questions facing it. What does conversion to Islam—whether forced or spontaneous—mean for Kalash identity? Can Kalash traditions withstand the challenges brought by globalization on the one hand and by religious tensions on the other? Join members of the Kalash community and observers from around the world as they reckon with these questions.