Posts Tagged ‘dhondup wangchen’

Skirmishes and Struggles Over Tibet Docs

Friday, January 15th, 2010
Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (photo courtesy of Friends of

Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (photo courtesy of Friends of

Chinese authorities have withdrawn two films from the Palm Springs International Film Festival (Jan. 5-18) in protest of the scheduled screening of a documentary about Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

The more prominent of two films, City of Life and Death (also known as Nanjing! Nanjing!), written and directed by Lu Chuan, is a critically acclaimed fictionalized account of atrocities committed by the Japanese occupiers in 1937. According to a report on The Desert Sun, a local paper at Palm Springs, CA, the festival director Darryl Macdonald “regards the film as one of the best unsung films in the festival, but said its merit isn’t enough to subvert the festival’s adherence to artistic freedom.” The other film is Ye Kai’s comedy Quick, Quick, Slow.

A report on the New York Times calls the dispute “a bona fide diplomatic incident,” observing that “while Chinese officials told the festival’s director that the filmmakers themselves had decided to withdraw their state-financed works, many China experts believe that it is the state sending a message, rather than the individuals.”

The report also reviews the recent history of “protest[s] by Chinese officials that the arts, and film specifically, are being used as a weapon to meddle in their internal affairs.”

In August, two American filmmakers were blocked from traveling to China to present their documentary about the more than 5,000 children in Sichuan Province who died when a 2008 earthquake caused numerous schools to collapse. Computer hackers and demonstrators took aim at the Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia in July to protest its screening of a documentary about a leader of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region of northwest China, where some 200 people were killed in ethnic violence last summer. And at last fall’s Frankfurt Book Fair, a diplomatic struggle emerged over the fair’s invitation to two dissident Chinese writers to speak at its official program honoring China.

The target of this protest is The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom, directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. According to the program at Palm Springs, the film “follow[ed] [the Dalai Lama] over an eventful year, including the 2008 protest in Tibet, the long march in India, the Beijing Olympics and the breakdown of talks with China.”

More news, and a trailer of The Sun Behind the Clouds, after the break.


Tibetan Filmmaker to Be Tried for Subversion

Monday, November 16th, 2009
Dhondup Wangchen (Photo courtesy of the NY Times)

Dhondup Wangchen (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

According to a report on New York Times from Chongqing, China, a self-taught filmmaker who spent five months interviewing Tibetans about their hopes and frustrations living under Chinese rule is facing charges of state subversion after the footage was smuggled abroad and distributed on the Internet and at film festivals around the world.

Dhondup Wangchen, 35, has been detained since March 2008, just weeks after deadly rioting broke out in Tibet. Since October 2007, he began traveling the Tibetan plateau interviewing monks, yak herders and students about their lives. In the resulting 25-minute documentary “Leaving Fear Behind,” most of his subjects freely expressed their disdain for the Han Chinese migrants who are flooding the region and their love for the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959.

The report also mentions that, with hundreds of lawyers, dissidents and journalists serving time in Chinese prisons, human rights organizations are busy lobbying the White House, members of Congress and the news media to press the Chinese government on such thorny topics as free speech, democracy and greater religious freedom.

Here is a brief biography of Dhondup Wangchen by Tsetring Gyaljong, a cousin who helped him make the documentary, and a news clip about Mr. Wangchen and his project on ABC News.