a film by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Dreaming Lhasa Opens April 13 at New York's ImaginAsian Theater (239 East 59th Street) One Week Only!
A Letter from Filmmakers Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam
Nearly fifty years have passed since Communist China invaded and occupied Tibet. The situation in Tibet remains grim and shows no sign of easing up. At such a critical time, we believe it is imperative for us Tibetans to tell our own stories to the world. Since China rules Tibet with an iron hand, Tibetans inside Tibet have no voice, no possibility of expressing themselves. It is therefore up to those of us who live in exile to speak out on their behalf and keep the Tibetan struggle alive.
For the past several years, we have been making documentary films on a range of subjects concerning Tibet. At the same time, we have felt that it was important to make a Tibetan feature film, one that would accurately depict the contemporary reality of Tibet and dispel some of the more romanticized, Shangri-La-like notions about the country that have found currency in the Western imagination.
Two generations of Tibetans have grown up, either in exile, having never seen their homeland, or under Chinese rule. Their connection with the past, with a time when their country was independent, is becoming increasingly tenuous. Their very identity as Tibetans is being questioned, threatened, mutated. How is the younger generation dealing with this crisis? What does being Tibetan mean at this point in time?
Dreaming Lhasa is perhaps the first Tibetan feature film to explore these questions. As a film that provides a unique and personal insight into the lives of Tibetans today, it will appeal to anyone who is interested in Tibet, its people and its culture. At the same time, as a story that touches upon the universal issues of exile, identity, loss and love, the film has resonances beyond just the Tibetan experience. All exiles, indeed, all immigrants, face the same dilemmas; the confusion of dislocation, the paradox of simultaneously belonging to different worlds and cultures without having a solid anchor anywhere. And in this regard, we believe the film will also be of interest to a much wider audience.
Six years ago, when we first embarked on the journey that would become Dreaming Lhasa, we could only hope that we would somehow reach the end. In the absence of anything approaching a Tibetan film industry, we were on our own, literally having to start from scratch, using non-professional actors for the most part, and working in a semi-documentary style in real locations and situations. But with the help and support of the Tibetan community in exile, of family, friends and supporters, the film has become a reality. After its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and screening at more than thirty other film festivals worldwide, it is now on the verge of its first commercial release in the US. On the 13th of April, our American distributors, First Run Features, will open the film in New York at the ImaginAsian Theatre.
This is a critical moment for us and for the film. If it has a strong opening weekend in New York, it has a good chance of being booked in theatres across the country. The wider the release, the more people it can reach and touch, and bring the message of Tibet to. We need your help in making sure that the word gets out about our film. First Run Features can help you by providing you with postcards, posters and even copies of this letter.
Thank you for reading this and for your support. We look forward to seeing you at the ImaginAsian Theatre; we will be there.
With best wishes,
Ritu and Tenzing
Karma, a Tibetan filmmaker from New York, goes to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's exile headquarters in northern India, to make a documentary about former political prisoners who have escaped from Tibet. She wants to reconnect with her roots but is also escaping a deteriorating relationship back home.
One of Karma's interviewees is Dhondup, an enigmatic ex-monk who has just escaped from Tibet. He confides in her that his real reason for coming to India is to fulfill his dying mother's last wish, to deliver a charm box to a long-missing resistance fighter. Karma finds herself unwittingly falling in love with Dhondup even as she is sucked into the passion of his quest, which becomes a journey into Tibet's fractured past and a voyage of self-discovery.
1:1.85, 35mm, 90 minutes, Tibetan/English