HPPUB MOVIE REVIEW of Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion

 

Title:  Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion

Release Date:  2003

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 103 Min

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 (not officially submitted)

Distributor and Production Company:  Artistic License Films, Earthworks films

Director; Writer: Tom and Sue Peosay

Producer:

Cast:  

Technical: Mostly DV

Relevance to HPPUB site:  general political balance

Review:

 

I “met” the Dalai Lama myself at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport on Monday  May 7, 2001, about five months before 9-11 and great changes in my own life, in line, waiting to board my Northwest/KLM party plane back to Minneapolis St Paul, after a trip that had included Bilbao and Lourdes. 

 

I went to this film to visit the AFI Silver Theater in the D.C. suburbs for the first time, and at the beginning I expected a spectacular travelogue of kind my cousin and I used to draw as filmstrips as boys. Indeed, the city of Lhasa and the surrounding rural society reminded one, according to looks, almost of a set from The Lord of the Rings. Quickly, the film turned into a passionate political and ethical sonata.

 

Before the encroachment of China, Tibetan society had been a treasured dominion for centuries, whose ruler was chosen on the basis of spiritual evidence of reincarnation (as compared to salvation through grace and resurrection in Christianity). A theocracy, in some sense it was authoritarian, with peasants serving the needs of monks, and yet the people by all accounts were much happier than in many other religious societies.

 

Communist China, then, could use ideology as an excuse to impose the redistribution of wealth, and then the Maoist Cultural Revolution, and pillage the country, but as much out of a need for political supremacy in Asia as from social ideology. One aim was to destroy any remnants of Tibetan quasi-independence. (Tibet, for example, used to mint its own currency, and Tibetans are totally separate by ethnicity and language from the Chinese.) The Dalai Lama would flee in 1959.  The American CIA would try to aid the Tibetans until it was no longer politically advantageous (when opposing the Soviet Union became a higher priority). Today, as China gradually becomes quasi-capitalist, it still insists on instilling Chinese culture in Tibet and giving jobs to Chinese resettlers, under the rubric of “modernization.” Given all of China’s moralism, it seems ironic that Lhasa now has a red light district of over 90 establishments set up to entertain Chinese soldiers and workers.

 

Of course, one feels that the Tibetans are the heroes and the Chinese are the villains here, but things are not so simple. Even before, individuals in Tibet probably did not enjoy “individual rights” and economic opportunity as we know it, even if they believed that they lived in a spiritual utopia. And as for China, we are really not sure today what its ideology really is as it tries to appeal to business to come over to make money. Its record on human rights still seems greatly wanting, a moral issue for this country as it exports jobs to China and buys inexpensive goods and services from China. Wal-Mart was mentioned at least once in the film.

 

Will larger and more commercial film companies and studios buy or produce films like these? There were several cameo appearances and credits from stars, such as Harrison Ford and Jon Voigt.

 

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Email me at Jboushka@aol.com