TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION (director: Tom Peosay; screenwriters: Victoria Mudd/Sue Peosay; cinematographer: Tom Peosay; editor: Kathryn Himoff; music: Jeff Beal; cast: Martin Sheen (Narrator); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Earthwork Films (Mario Florio & Victoria Mudd)/Zambuling Pictures (Tom Peosay & Sue Peosay); New Yorker Video; 2003)
“This incredible documentary, so excellently crafted, is both moving and informative.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Tom Peosay’s remarkable documentary ”Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion” was ten years in the making and brings viewers to the once forbidden “rooftop of the world” to see how modern Tibet has struggled and suffered since invaded by Red China in 1949. It’s filled with a wealth of footage actually shot in Tibet as a result of the filmmakers nine journeys there. Tom (a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara) and his wife Sue (an Asian Studies major) set out on a tour of Asia that resulted in an extended stay in the Chinese-occupied nation of Tibet. The narrative tells of the 14th Dalai Lama’s efforts to wage a non-violent fight for freedom in the face of genocide by the Chinese invaders (some 1.2 million Tibetans have been murdered out of a population of 6 million). It also tells of the Dalai Lama being forced to flee across the Himalayas in a disguise in 1959, and settling in India where he now leads the fight for Tibet to be free again. The Tibetans’ plight is particularly relevant in today’s world faced with continual warfare and terrorism; this is especially so in view of how the Tibetans’ religious beliefs have transformed them from fierce warriors 1,200 years ago to followers of peace and compassion for all human beings, even their enemies. They learned from the Buddha’s teaching, who lived in India some 500 years before Christ, about the possibilities of attaining freedom through their self-education and uncovering an inner peace. As a result, the Tibetans lived for 700 years with peace and prosperity, and emphasized education and the study of the mind as the most important thing one can do. They never achieved a perfect country, as there were great divides between the aristocrats and the peasant class. The government was also plagued by corruption, as were some of the monasteries. But no one starved and their great passion for learning about how the mind works contributed, arguably, more advanced knowledge even than in the most enlightened western countries.
The documentary features rare undercover footage (from rituals in remote monasteries to horse races with Khamba warriors to a red light district in the holy city of Lhasa), informative interviews (from Tibetan Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, Director of Tibet House in New York City and professor at Columbia, to author Robert Ford of “Wind Between the Worlds”, an Englishman who worked in Tibet in 1949 and was imprisoned by the invading Chinese), and stunning imagery (from the Potala to ruined Tibetan monasteries to refugees crossing Himalayan passes to arrive frostbitten in Dharamsala, Northern India–where the Dalai Lama currently resides).
Movingly narrated by Martin Sheen, the film encompasses China’s invasion in 1949, under the bogus intentions of liberating the Tibetans from the Anglo-American influences, which resulted in the next 25 years of hardship, repression and brutality. There was some hope that sprung up with Mao’s death but that unfortunately fizzled as the Chinese continued to force the Tibetans to be second-class citizens–to speak Chinese in school and in the workplace, not to display any pictures of the Dalai Lama and the placement of religion under their control in order to eliminate it. The film goes into great details on the 1987 riots, which were brutally put down and led to even harsher treatment by the so-called liberators. Currently the Chinese government is flooding Tibet with Chinese immigrants in the hope of putting a strangle hold on Tibet it will never be able to recover from economically. It is suggested that only the west and a country like America has the economic power to stop China from enslaving the Tibetans. The filmmaker believes those governments should stop doing business with China until their human rights record improves, like they did with South Africa to force them to change their racist practices. The film concludes with a rock concert in San Francisco featuring Foo Fighters and R.E.M, as the filmmaker believes that the Dalai Lama’s peaceful fight has gotten the attention of the free world and that there are now even many ordinary Chinese expressing support for Tibet. Sue Peosay says: “Any real solution to the current problems in Tibet will need to come from within China. So ultimately, my personal hope is that this film can serve as a stepping stone for dialogue that may someday build a bridge toward a meaningful reconciliation between China and Tibet.”
This incredible documentary, so excellently crafted, is both moving and informative and should reach the heart of anyone who values freedom and peace. It’s the real tragic story of a compassionate people whose spirit is not broken despite this attempt to either eliminate or enslave them. Their courage and non-violent fight should move anyone who values what it is to be human.
REVIEWED ON 10/17/2004 GRADE: A+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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