TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION
A detailed account of China's efforts to obliterate Tibet as a cultural, spiritual and social entity, tracing the historic, political, social and spiritual events that led to the situation today, in which China continues to send thousands of Chinese to repopulate Tibet. Under the spiritual guidance of the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibetans have been waging a non-violent form of resistance. Having destroyed over 6,000 monasteries, tortured and executed over one million Tibetans and outlawing the Tibetan language and flag, China now claims to be developing Tibet, while the Tibetans are increasingly disappearing from their own country. The United Nations does nothing, and says nothing.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The culture of compassion that has been developed through its Buddhist traditions has stood Tibet in good stead. It has given Tibetans the strength to withstand the extraordinary brutality of China's desperate attempts to destroy this amazing people and their culture, since 1949. As soon as the communists took power in Beijing, they invaded Tibet. They've been there ever since, denying that Tibet was ever an independent nation, trampling on the culture and the people. They've tortured Tibetan nuns and monks who speak of independence, with electric cattle prods in their vaginas or their mouths.
The plight of Tibet has been a festering sore in the annals of human rights for almost 50 years. This intelligent and level headed documentary is the first to record it in such detail and with such force. It paints a picture of an Asian apartheid, where the Chinese are the colonial oppressors and Tibetans the victims of human rights abuses on a massive scale. For 20 years, China has been shoving thousands of their citizens into Tibet, to swamp the indigenous population in one of the most callous acts of ethnic manipulation in history. (I refuse to use the phrase 'ethnic cleansing' when it is used to actually describe ethnic destruction.)
The documentary damns the Chinese, but it also damns the rest of the world for standing by and mouthing slogans about freedom and democracy but doing nothing. As we watch, Tibet is disappearing. Many young Tibetans are starting to think that non violent resistance just won't work.
The filmmakers use a combination of archival footage and a collection of remarkable actuality footage shot in secret during demonstrations. Tibetan news crews tell of being unable to show what they see, but as the Chinese have learnt, freedom has the unstoppable power of life itself. Like the green leaves that sprout in the cracks between the harshest stones, the life force of humanity cannot be obliterated.
Interviews with scholars and dedicated democracy workers, with Buddhist nuns and monks - many of whom have been tortured for simply talking of an independent Tibet - are edited into a coherent and moving essay. The compassion that is part of Tibetan culture, recognised by the Dalai Lama's Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago, is obviously a source of great strength.
Chinese spokesmen are given a chance to rebut the Tibetan claims, which they do with an icy disdain, which of course makes them look even more foolish and their acts seem even more brutal.
High profile actors (Ed Harris, Shirley Knight, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon) have lent their support by reading the translations of the Tibetan interviews and the filmmakers voice is carried in the narration (Martin Sheen) and it is a well researched script that avoids bombast or shrill denunciation. It leaves the Tibetans to speak for themselves, and puts their sad story into global context. It's an exemplary documentary, urging us to action, not just to feel sympathy.
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TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION (M)
VOICES: Edward Edwards, Ed Harris, Shirley Knight, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon
NARRATION: Martin Sheen
PRODUCER: Maria Florio, Tom Peosay, Sue Peosay
DIRECTOR: Tom Peosay
SCRIPT: Victoria Mudd, Sue Peosay
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Peosay
EDITOR: Kathryn Himoff
MUSIC: Jeff Beal, Nawang Khechog
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 28, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
VIDEO RELEASE: May 4, 2005