Free Tibet via DVD of Dalai Lama & Sun Behind the Clouds

Young protester in 2008 Free Tibet march as seen in new Zeitgeist documentary on the Dalai Lama and Tibet.One DVD can’t possibly remove China’s grip on Tibet—but China’s annoyance at the work of filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam is well documented. Independence movements often turn on countless small actions spreading around the world, so consider buying this duo’s films. The whole world can see the overall Amazon ranking of such DVD sales—including the Chinese government. Consider enlightening yourelf by watching the two videos and, at the same time, you’ll show your visible support for freedom by purchasing the DVDs online. The new DVD, “Sun Behind the Clouds,” ships on Oct. 19. (Click on the linked titles of the films, below, to jump to Amazon.)

And PLEASE: Stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit all this week for more news from Asia! Tuesday and Wednesday, we’re publishing news about a historic collection of Rumi poetry that goes on sale this week!

China Pressuring Filmmakers Pushing for Free Tibet

This autumn, headlines are popping up about the upcoming DVD release on October 19 of the latest documentary by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom, which you can order on Amazon today.

But this pattern by China of bullying film festival organizers over showing their films has been going on for years, according to newspaper reports both in the U.S. and overseas. In 2007, The Hindustan Times, a major newspaper in Asia, reported on Chinese efforts against showings of their earlier film, DREAMING LHASA: A Voyage to Tibet Like You’ve Never Seen. The Times story said, in part:

Hailed as the first major feature film by a Tibetan to deal with contemporary Tibet, “Dreaming Lhasa” has been a thorn in the flesh of the Chinese government that has reportedly been trying to prevent it from being screened abroad in the fear that it will focus new attention on the plight of Tibetans in China, ahead of the Olympic Games to be hosted by Beijing in 2008. In 2005, Chinese officials tried to pressure the organisers of the Toronto International Film Festival to remove “Dreaming Lhasa” but the organisers refused. Beijing, however, had more success at the Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea the same year when, though initially chosen for screening, “Dreaming Lhasa” was dropped at the last moment with no explanation.

This year, 2010, various newspapers have reported similar Chinese bullying over “Sun Behind the Clouds,” which Zeitgeist is due to release on DVD on October 19. In April, the Boston Herald reported:

China withdrew two films from January’s Palm Springs Film Festival after the fest premiered the passionate documentary “The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom.” Since China’s 1950 occupation of the mountainous nation, it has tried to convince the world that Tibet is part of the communist nation. Tibetans, as this expose reveals, think otherwise. … “Sun” chronicles how, after decades of relative calm, anti-Chinese protests erupted in 2008 both within and outside the country. They were timed to coincide with the Beijing Olympics and intended to embarrass China.

Review of Zeitgeist release of “Sun Behind the Clouds”

Protester in 2008 Free Tibet march in “Sun Behind the Clouds.”By ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm

In June, The New Indian Express, a prominent English-language newspaper in Asia, quoted filmmaker Ritu Sarin as asking: “Why do we expect just entertainment from films? … All over lthe world these are difficult times for documentary filmmakers; we need to move beyond Bollywood and television and document the real issues of our society.”

That comment explains a lot about “Sun Behind the Clouds.” Reviews of the documentary have been mixed since the film began regional showings, including one in New York City, earlier this year. The New York Times called the documentary “awkwardly constructed,” a criticism that’s puzzling to me. On the contrary, I found this film crystal clear. It’s a beautifully filmed, forceful piece of political action aimed specifically at pushing for Tibetan freedom.

The filmmakers are unhappy with the Dalai Lama’s longstanding commitment to a “Middle Way.” Basically, that means the Dalai Lama is willing to allow China to officially claim Tibet as Chinese territory—if the Chinese allow autonomy for the region and a return to Tibetan culture and spirituality. The Dalai Lama also wants economic development for the region, a goal that he says is only possible by recognizing the global interdependence of Tibet. The Dalai Lama claims that’s why his Middle Way doesn’t require complete political independence. The region needs help from many nations, including China, he argues.

What “Sun Behind the Clouds” shows us is that, since the Chinese Olympics in 2008, the Dalai Lama is losing touch with many activists in the movement toward Tibetan independence. The documentary does not insult the Dalai Lama. It’s more of a very strong nudge in his ribs, making it clear that—while he is still alive on Earth—many Tibetans would love to see him militantly push for independence.

By the end of the documentary, which includes footage from a wide range of the Dalai Lama’s apeparances, the possibility that he will abandon his Middle Way seems remote. Finally the filmmakers lay their cards on the table as filmmaker Tenzing Sonam tells viewers: “The present Chinese regime has no intention of negotiating with the Dalai Lama.” So, his Middle Way isn’t going to achieve any success. Pushing for independence now is vital, because: “In the longer term, this may be the only aspiration that can keep all Tibetans united, maintaining a sense of identity and motivating us in our struggle.”

You may wonder: So, is this just 79 minutes of dry political debate?

The answer: Hardly! For a politically motivated documentary, the scenes are absolutely gorgeous. We see the Dalai Lama teaching his monks in a colorful scene that Hollywood would be hard pressed to produce. Even the footage of the 2008 Free Tibet protest marchers is beautiful. You’ll enjoy simply watching this vivid slice of Tibetan Buddhist life, even as you learn about the complexity of the struggle.

No question: The Chinese government has committed tragic crimes against humanity over the past 50 years in Tibet. This particular film seems to make that government nervous. We recommend: Buy the DVD now from Amazon and demonstrate to Beijing the importance of this struggle to people around the world.

And, please tell us what YOU think …

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The heart of Tibet, homeland of the Dalai Lama and what’s at stake in the independence movement.

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