The annual Tibetan Film Festival has travelled out of New Delhi for the first time. Around 20 films—some documentaries, a few docudramas and some motion pictures— tell engaging narratives about what Tibet has lost and how we can think about its land and people differently.
Many of these films, to be screened in Bangalore, are made by Tibetan film-makers and writers in exile, and taken together, their works are a key to understanding what it means to be a Tibetan in the modern world.
Spotlight: Dreaming Lhasa is a docu-drama:
Organized by the New Delhi-based The Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the festival goes to Taiwan in July and Mussoorie in August. Thupten Tsewang, programme director of the foundation, says, “We are finalizing dates and venues for Mumbai and other Indian cities through summer.”
Tsewang spoke to Lounge from Bangalore, where the foundation is hosting a 24-member inter-community religious dialogue programme, coinciding with the film festival.
Some of the films in the six-day festival are biopics on the life and message of the Dalai Lama, including a few by film-makers from Europe and the US, but the ones that look most promising are those that portray the lives of ordinary Tibetans—at “home” and away.
In Dreaming Lhasa (2005), Karma, a Tibetan film-maker based in New York, goes to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama’s exile headquarters in India, to make a documentary on former political prisoners who have escaped from Tibet. She wants to reconnect with her roots but is also escaping a deteriorating relationship back home. One of Karma’s interviewees is Dhondup, an enigmatic ex-monk who has just escaped from Tibet. He confides in her that his real reason for coming to India is to fulfil his dying mother’s last wish, to deliver a charm box to a long-missing resistance fighter. Karma finds herself unwittingly falling in love with Dhondup.
Directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, this film is a powerful docudrama on the Tibetan situation.
The Cup (2003) is a guerrilla-style feature film made by a reincarnate lama or rinpoche, Khyentse Norbu. Set in a monastery in Bhutan, it is a humorous story of desperation, optimism and the innocence of childhood during the course of a night—the night when the World Cup Soccer final is telecast on TV.
To make the documentary Art In Exile (2005), Nidhi Tuli and Ashraf Abbas met activist poet Tenzin Tsundue, the former Tibetan Youth Congress president-poet Lhasang Tsering, and the rock band JJi Exile Brothers to showcase multiple narratives on an alternative revolution of Tibetan artists in exile.
And if you must watch a Dalai Lama biopic, catch Kundun (1997), directed by Martin Scorsese, that also has a haunting music score by Oscar-nominated composer Philip Glass.
Tibetan Film Festival 2009 is on at the Choe Khor Sum Ling centre, Bangalore, till 19 May. For more details, visit www.furhhdl.org