Tibet: Cry Of The Snow Lion
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With a title like this, you could be forgiven for thinking this is the latest...
With a title like this, you could be forgiven for thinking this is the latest animal documentary about a disappearing species, except in this case, the disappearing species is Tibetan culture itself. As most people know, China took over the bordering mountain region in 1950. But Tibet is home to a unique Buddhist culture which has proved resilient in exile. Part of this is down to the extraordinary spiritual leadership of the current Dalai Lama, whose writings in exile on non-violence and forgiveness have inspired people all over the world.
Cinematographer and documentary director Tom Peosay has made this rallying cry over a period of nearly ten years. He travelled from his home in America to Tibet nine times in the last decade. Like Martin Scorsese's Kundun, Peosay's film frequently ravishes with its glimpses into the beauty at the heart of the monastic tradition there. However, it is a political documentary too, and Peosay is both cunning and generous in giving a fair hearing to the Chinese guards who spruik the party line in Tibet.
Clearly the Chinese have no intention of giving Tibet back, ever. This is the real politic which the film does not shy away from and which fuels its sense of anger and its occasional note of despair. The Chinese policy has been to pay Chinese citizens to go and settle in the mountain kingdom so that they will eventually outnumber and marginalise the ethnic Tibetans. This roundabout form of repression will ultimately seal Tibet's fate. Given the current race for China's riches via "free trade", this film is a passionate reminder of another aspect to the question.