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Filming Tibetan dreams

Sandip Roy profiles Dreaming Lhasa, a film about Tibetans in India and abroad struggling to retain their sense of identity:

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam have seen many documentaries about the tragedy of Tibet. They have even made their own ones. But, after studying filmmaking and broadcast journalism at Berkeley, they decided to make a film that would be less about the Dalai Lama and more about the lives of Tibetans growing up in exile.

"We felt some stories were better told with a narrative structure," says Sarin. "We wanted to, hopefully, get to a larger audience." After screenings at many international film festivals like Toronto, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and winning the Best of Fest at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in London, their movie, Dreaming Lhasa, opened in New York on April 13, at the ImaginAsian Theater.

It is, in some ways, a break from the typical Tibet film that, in the West, has had a bit of a Shangri-La feel to it. The Dalai Lama is set up as a beatific figure, an apostle of non-violence fleeing Chinese persecution. The Tibetans themselves seem like inhabitants of some lost planet, far too innocent for the modern world, a throwback to a simpler age, stoically enduring torture and deprivation as their culture and faith are systematically ripped away from them.

First published in India Abroad


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