While demonstrating, and sometimes dwelling too much on, the technical disadvantages of a literal “one-man crew,” Gaurav Jani’s road-trip docu “Riding Solo to the Top of the World” still provides an exotically absorbing armchair travel experience. Helmer-lenser-star traveled by motorcycle to the remote Changthang Plateau, a mountainous Indian region bordering China whose sparse human population consists mostly of nomadic shepherds. Glimpsing these seldom-seen landscapes and cultures is worth the trip; pic became a word-of-mouth hit at the Mill Valley Film Fest. Distribution prospects look brightest in offshore niche tube and DVD sales.
Initial progress is uninspiring, as Bollywood cinematographer Jani spends too much time explaining the process by which he made and shot the journey. But once he starts visiting far-flung locales, meeting locals and experiencing sporadic altitude sickness (the stark, majestic region’s average elevation is 15,000 feet), pic becomes quite ingratiating. Area residents are fascinated by this rare outsider, and vice versa. These interactions are charming, though sometimes Jani overindulges himself as narrator and onscreen guide. A Tibetan refugee camp, Buddhist monastery, 17th-century palace and transient tent-camp are among the habitations visited. Tech package is necessarily rough but adequate.
— Dennis Harvey