Bair Balzhirov, Buryatia’s health minister in the 1990s, tells the story of an encounter with a Tibetan doctor in California. As the two talk, the question of who owns Tibetan medicine arises, namely how the Tibetan medicine practiced in Buryatia or Mongolia fits with that practiced by Tibetans. Balzhirov’s encounter, which he recounts with great humor, touches on the larger questions of authenticity, heritage, and intellectual property in the tradition. These are difficult questions to answer as Tibetan medicine has such a long history of exchange and adaptation in different localities, and the larger it grows, the more it becomes entangled in global discourses on patents, benefit sharing, and the protection of traditional and indigenous knowledge.
Cinematography: Michael Egger
Sound: Anet Marti