Siberian Dream
The Gardner Documentary Group
"I just took a look at the film and was mezmorized by the story. This is truly original and inspiring."
-Linden Chubin, Asia Society

"This wonderful project documenting Buryat history, culture, and religion, will be of great help for any and all people interested in better understanding the peoples of Russia and Central Asia."
-Dr. Robert A.F. Thurman, President, Tibet House U.S.

The Gardner Documentary Group




Irina Pantaeva grew up in a family of artists and shaman during the final years of Soviet rule. Her parents both worked in the theater. At age 14, Irina was discovered and trained as a model by a local designer. Fashion was equated with capitalism and she was stigmatized by school authorities and called a prostitute. After Gorbachev came to power, she was able to fly to Moscow to find work and send money home. In 1991, after auditioning for Pierre Cardin's first Moscow show, Irina's career took off, leading her to Paris then New York. Ten years later, Siberia is still close to her heart. Irina and her son, Ruslan, take us back to gain insight into their ancient Buryat-Mongol culture that resisted assimilation during the Soviet period in Siberian Dream.


Buryatia hugs the Southern border of Siberia, between northern Mongolia and Lake Baikal- the largest fresh water lake in the world. While Irina has made a name for herself on the runway and as an author, this is the first time the Buryat-Mongol story has been shared on screen. Irina's family of artists and shaman unravel Buryatia’s hidden history as Siberian Dream celebrates their endangered Central Asian culture.


The Buryats were a nomadic Mongolian tribe, once part of Chinggis (Ghengis) Khan's empire. The Russians first came to Buryatia in 1641 and brought with them a wave of European Russian migrants. In the early years of the Russian Revolution, the region enjoyed relative autonomy and Buryat culture flourished. Traditionally Buryats practiced shamanism and in the 1700s, Tibetan Buddhism was introduced. The dark years began in 1929. Thousands of Buryat Buddhist monks were killed or sent to concentration camps during Stalin's rule. Many shaman disappeared. Remaining Buddhists and Shaman practiced underground.


In the film, Irina's family describe the impact of dramatic economic reforms - glasnost and perestroika - on this region, which was closed to outsiders for more than half a century. Siberian Dream takes audiences on a journey of faith between New York and Siberia, culminating in a cleansing ritual as llamas bless her new baby. She calls him Solongo, which in Buryat means "rainbow." To her surprise, she finds a spiritual home at Tibet House in New York, a place where she can teach her children and pass along her Buddhist faith.

Click here to read character descriptions.


With support from


New Jersey Council for the Humanities Women in Film's Film Finishing Fund

This film was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views expressed in this film are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Additional funding provided by the Women in Film Foundation's Film Finishing Fund, the New York Council for the Humanities, Barakat, Inc., Nomadic Expeditions, and Glue Editing and Design.


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