Shangri-La, Paradise Under Construction

Does Shangri-La really exist? Mirka Duijn goes in search of the answer in this travelogue-cum-investigation. She travels to the mountains of Tibetan China and digs into the archives to unravel the history of this mythical place. At first sight, the answer is obvious: British author James Hilton invented Shangri-La for his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, in which four characters crash land in the Kunlun Mountains and later find a magnificent monastery—a paradise on earth.

It’s pure fiction, and Hilton never even set foot in China or Tibet. Nonetheless, this Tibetan region in China now claims to have rediscovered this utopian haven: in 2001, China’s Zhongdian County was renamed Shangri-La, and a brand-new “historical” center was built for tourists to visit. Duijn discovers that the people living in Shangri-La firmly believe Hilton was writing about their city, explaining that an airplane really did crash in the area. Her curiosity aroused, the filmmaker picks apart the many strands to this surprisingly rich and complex story.

  • Name in Original Language: Shangri-La, Paradise Under Construction
  • Director: Mirka Duijn, Nina Spiering
  • Country: Netherlands, Sweden
  • Year: 2022
  • Length: 96 min
  • Cinematography: Mirka Duijn
  • Editing: Mirka Duijn, Michel Wenzer
  • Audio: Wieke Kapteijns, Hein Verhoeven
  • Music: Rutger Hoedemaekers
  • Production: Annemiek van Gorp for De Productie, René Goossens for De Productie


  • Tartu Elektriteater: Friday, 3.02 - 20:30
  • Cinema Artis, hall 1: Saturday, 4.02 - 17:00