Summaries of the films : Tibetan Film Festival 2006 — 1 to 7 May

Travellers & Magicians

Travellers & Magicians

Written and Directed by Khyentse Norbu
Produced by Raymond Steiner and Malcolm Watson
Executive Producer Jeremy Thomas
Director of Photography Alan Kozlowski
Edited by John Scott and Lisa-Anne Morris
Bhutan 2003 | 35mm | 108 minutes | Colour | Dzongkha with English subtitles

In the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, nestled deep in the Himalayas, two men seek to escape their mundane lives. Dondup, an educated university graduate decides that he will be better off picking grapes in the US than working as a government officer in a remote rural village. Tashi, a restless farm youth studying magic, cannot bear the thought of a life consigned to his village. Through a trick of his brother, he is delivered into a dream world of seduction and intrigue.

The two men embark on parallel, if separate, journeys. Their yearning is a common one — for a better and different life.

Dondup, delayed by the timeless pace of his village, is forced to hitchhike through the beautiful wild countryside of Bhutan to reach his goal. He shares the road with a monk, an apple seller, a papermaker and his beautiful young daughter, Sonam.

Throughout the journey the perceptive, yet mischievous monk relates the story of Tashi. It is a mystical fable of lust, jealousy and murder, that holds up a mirror to the restless Dondup, and his blossoming attraction to the innocent Sonam.

The cataclysmic conclusion of the monk's tale leaves Dondup with a dilemma — is the grass truly greener on the other side?

Dreaming Lhasa

Dreaming Lhasa

A film by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (Dharamshala, India)
Executive Producers: Jeremy Thomas, Richard Gere and Ran Singh
Written by Tenzing Sonam
Produced by Ritu Sarin
Directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
India/UK 2005 | 35mm | 90 minutes | Colour | Tibetan/English

Karma, a Tibetan filmmaker from New York, comes to Dharamshala — a small town in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, home to the exiled Dalai Lama and the spiritual and political focus of the Tibetan Diaspora. Escaping from a deteriorating relationship back home, she is here to make a film about former political prisoners who have escaped from Tibet. Their harrowing stories of courage and suffering heighten her own sense of cultural alienation.

One of Karma's interviewees is Dhondup, an enigmatic ex-monk who has recently escaped from Tibet after spending four years in prison for his role in anti-Chinese activities. Dhondup confides in Karma that his real reason for coming to India is to fulfil his dying mother's last wish, to deliver a gahu — a charm box that Tibetans use as a protection amulet — to a man named Loga. He appeals to her for help in finding him.

Karma's assistant in Dharamshala is Jigme, a local Tibetan boy who is an aspiring rock musician, full of attitude but basically confused, torn between wanting to do something meaningful for a homeland he has never seen and plotting ways of getting to America and the "good life". Jigme instinctively dislikes Dhondup and tries to discourage Karma from getting involved. But something about Dhondup's quiet dignity touches her and she decides to help him.

As they set out to find Loga, Karma finds herself unwittingly falling in love with Dhondup even as she is sucked into the vortex of his quest, which becomes a journey into Tibet's fractured past and a voyage of self-discovery.

Milk & Opium

Milk & Opium

A film by Joel Palombo
Edited by Tenzin Tsetan Choklay (a Tibetan now living in South Korea)
Director of Photography: Pankaj Bhakuni
India 2006 | running time | Colour

Swaroop, a young Muslim boy from a caste of musicians, leaves his desert village in search of work with his Uncle Nizam. Swaroop is an innocent and curious 14 year-old boy who is discovering the world outside of his isolated village. Nizam takes opium regularly and scams money in any way he can. Swaroop and Nizam travel together, join Nizam's musician friends, and perform at roadside locations along the way.

Nizam's greed and use of religious rhetoric lead to the break up of the small group of musicians and eventually to Swaroop heading off on his own in the city. Swaroop tries to adapt to his ever-changing circumstances of being a traveling musician in a world he has just discovered.

In the city, Swaroop meets Santosh, a young Hindu boy studying to become a priest. Santosh decides to join Swaroop to become a musician. The two boys quickly find themselves in a world of malls and multinationals.

Milk & Opium leaves the viewer questioning what will become of Swaroop and traditional India. The film features outstanding traditional Sufi music with a twist of fusion. All of the actors play themselves in a unique neo-realist style cinema.

Phun Anu Thanu

Phun Anu Thanu

A film by Tashi Wangchuk and Tsultrim Dorjee (Dehra Dun, India)
Producer: Dekyi Wangmo, Ugen Dolma, Kunsang Thenley
Editor: Mohit Kumar
Cinematographer: Narinder Singh
Background Music: Jamphel Tenzin
India 2005 | 120 minutes | Colour | Tibetan

It is a story narrated by a Magician from Tibet. The magician travels all over the world and tells the story of PHUN ANU THANU — two exile brothers. In the film, he comes to a small Tibetan community, Dekiling, in northern India, to share the story.

The story within story is of two naughty brothers, Anu and Thanu and their unconditional love for two beautiful and educated daughters, Yangzom and Dechen, of Gyakpon la (a camp leader) of Dekiling. Anu and Thanu are known for their unruly characters while Yangzom and Dechen for their positive qualities.

Much against the wishes of the respectable Gyakpon la, the two brothers strive hard to win the heart of his two daughters.

The film takes off on the 10th March 2005 when every Tibetan goes to downtown, Dehra Dun, to commemorate the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in Lhasa. The two brothers, however, do not attend the march and lingers around with the two sisters.

Since there is no one present at the colony, the time is also perfect for two thieves to do their business. However, love rules the heart of potbellied school cook, Machen la, as he is busy making love with the wine lady, Ama Changma.

Apart from entertainment, the film touches social, political, moral and health issues.

New York ma ray Mi York ray

New York ma ray Mi York ray

A short film Directed and Written by Namgyal Dorjee
Camera and Editor: Pempa Tsering
Producer: Kalsang Phuntsok
Executive Producer: Dorjee Tsering (Lhaksam)
US/India 2004 | Colour | Tibetan

New York ma ray Mi York ray is about life of a group of young Tibetans emigrated to the US from India.

The film is aimed to show about the life in America to the Tibetan people in India, Nepal, Bhutan and especially in Tibet.

Dhondup, a young Tibetan beggar in Delhi, moves to the US with the help of his friend, Tenzin. He is received well by Tenzin and other new friends. After getting over with the jet lag, the American wonders — sky-scrapers and the busy streets — Dhondup goes to Chinatown to get work. He fins a job as an office cleaner, but soon quits. He then works as a porter, dishwasher, etc., but gets kicked out all the time.

He then realises that without any skill or proper education, life is harsh in the US.

For Dhondup, life in New York is nothing, but a place for Mi Yok. Hence, New York ma ray, Mi Yok ray ("It's not New York, it is being another's servant").

The cast were Dorjee Tsering, Namgyal Dorjee, Penpa Tsering, Lobsang Choedon and Kalsang Phuntsok. They all live in NYC.

Voices in Exile

Voices in Exile

A documentary film Directed, Filmed and Edited by Tenzin Wangden Andrugtsang (Dharamshala, India)
Producer: Joe Mickey, Northern California
Associate Producer: Sazzy Varga, Southern California
India/US 2005 | 66 minutes | Colour
A Tibetan Photo Project Production

A documentary film on the lives of Tibetans in exile from a Tibetan perspective.

As the Tibetan people stand at the edge of extinction, "Voices in Exile" speaks out against the continued brutal policies of the Chinese government.

Most film and photography on Tibet is from the Western eye looking in.

Angelo Love the RHCP

Angelo Love the Red Hot Chilli Peppers

A musical film by Fabrice Drouet a.k.a. Fabulos Fab (France)
France 2005 | 30 mins | Colour
Fabulos Fab's site

This film was shot in some very privileged conditions at the concert the Red Hot Chilli Peppers gave in Paris in 2004 at the Parc des Princes.

The film takes its originality from editing and the special effects and colouring to impose in a more visual way to give more intensity and electricity to the music.

It start in a fairly classical way to go to a real psychedelic coloured trip passing on to punk homage to finish in a more normal way with the enormous and famous "give it away".

Fabulos Fab is a long time friend of the band mainly with Flea and Anthony.

Angry Monk

Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet

A film by Luc Schaedler (Switzerland)
Switzerland 2005 | 35mm | 97 minutes | Colour

Tibet — the mystical roof of the world, peopled with enlightened monks? Only one of them wouldn't toe the line: Gendun Choephel, the errant monk who left the monastic life in 1934 in search of a new challenge. A free spirit and multifaceted individual, he was far ahead of his time and has since become a seminal figure, a symbol of hope for a free Tibet. A rebel and voluble critic of the establishment, Gendun Choephel kindled the anger of the Tibetan authorities.

The cinematic journey through time portrays the life of this unorthodox monk, revealing a face of old Tibet that goes against popular clichés. The film makes an abundance of unique and rare historical footage available to the general public for the first time. But it does not dwell on the past; rather it skillfully oscillates between tradition and modernity. Archival images of ancient caravans and monasteries give way to scenes of discos and multi-lane highways in Lhasa, where pilgrims prostrate themselves as they circle the holy temple. ANGRY MONK offers a fascinating insight into a country whose eventful past is refracted in the multiplicity and contradictions of everyday life.

Ultimately, this road movie also tells the story of a man who left home to search for something that could have liberated traditional Tibet from its rigidity. An outsider who was always open to new things, he eventually became a stranger in his homeland and homeless in foreign lands — a wanderer between worlds.

House of Flying Daggers

House of Flying Daggers

A film by Zhang Yimou (China)
Screenplay: Li Feng, Zhang Yimou and Wang Bin
Director of Photography: Zhao Xiaoding
China 2004 | 119 minutes| Colour | Mandarin with English subtitles
Website: House of Flying Daggers

House of Flying Daggers is set in the year 859 AD as China's once flourishing Tang Dynasty is in decline. Unrest is raging throughout the land, and the corrupt government is locked in battle with rebel armies that are forming in protest. The largest, and most prestigious of these rebel groups is the House of Flying Daggers, which is growing ever more powerful under a mysterious new leader.

Two local captains, Leo (Andy Lau Tak Wah) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are ordered to capture the new leader and the two hatch an elaborate plan. Captain Jin will pretend to be a lone warrior called Wind and rescue the beautiful, blind revolutionary Mei (Ziyi Zhang) from prison, earning her trust and escorting her to the secret headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers.

The plan works, but to their surprise, Jin and Mei fall deeply in love on their long journey to the House. Danger lurks in the forest surrounding them, and the wind is still, as if sensing the tension in the air. What lies ahead for Jin and Mei, these star-crossed lovers? If this is true love, then why are there plots in their heads, and secrets in their hearts?



A Deepa Mehta film (India)
Produced by David Hamilton
India 2004 | 114 minutes | Colour | Hindi
Water : Official site

Set in the 1930s during the rise of the independence struggles against British colonial rule, Water examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. It focuses on a relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from a lower caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.

Water is the third part of a linked trilogy by Mehta; preceeded by Fire (1996) and Earth (1998).

We Homes Chaps

We Homes Chaps

A film by Kesang Tseten (a Tibetan living in Nepal)

This film explores the fragile ground where love and unlove cohabit, illuminating a rare space where the two are in close proximity but distinct. A unique Scottish Presbyterian home was founded by a missionary at the turn of the century in British India. It takes in orphans, mainly destitute Anglo-Indian children, and subsequently, children of Tibetan refugees and other Himalayan people in strife. Providing an all-round education with old-fashioned and colonial Christian values, it is a home for many that would not have had one. But it is also a universe unto itself, a "total institution." For a "Homes chap" the institution is a surrogate parent, and an anchor and source of life-long attachment.

It is a love with an edge, a difficult love. Why that is so is what Tibetan filmmaker and Homes alumnus Kesang Tseten attempts to answer when he and his classmates of 29 years ago, return to the site of his childhood in the Village for Children in the lap of Kanchenjunga, during the heightened emotions of reunion and the institution's centennial celebrations. This is a searing and yet lyrical reflection on displacement, marginality, nostalgia, the powerful hold of early experience, and the nature of love.

On the Road with the Red God

On the Road with the Red God: MACHHENDRANATH

A film by Kesang Tsetan (a Tibetan living in Nepal)
Nepal | 72 minutes

Every 12 years, impassioned devotees pull a 65-feet tall unwieldy chariot in the Kathmandu Valley, its rider an enigmatic god worshipped by Hindu and Buddhist, on a month-long journey proceeded by abundant ritual and animal sacrifice.

The enterprise calls for extreme cooperation and rigorous observance of ritual in the building, sanctification and pulling of the rath. But the jatra is an arena of gritty reality, where conflict or solidarity can prevail. So every 12 years, the same question: will the journey succeed?

Best embodying the sprawling jatra is Kapil Muni. He serves a god that was stolen from a demoness to save the Kathmandu Valley. In an intriguing inversion, Kapil performs rituals to ward off the demoness trying to retrieve her son, even as he yearns to be reunited with his own mother who left him as an infant.

The Yogi Who Built Iron Bridges

The Yogi who Built Iron Bridges

A documentary film by Tsering Rhitar (a Tibetan living in Nepal)
Nepal 2003 | 30 minutes

Tibetan Lhamo Association of Kathmandu, Nepal has been performing a number of Lhamo/operas introduced by Dupthop Thantong Gyalpo (1385-1464 AD). Like all other performing art groups, the Tibetan Lhamo Association of Kathmandu concentrated in preserving the existing traditions until some years back when His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised the Lhamo Associations participating at the Shoton in Dharamshala to further enrich this tradition by introducing new operas. In response to this advice, Tibetan Lhamo Association of Kathmandu attempted to create a new opera, most aptly, based on the life story of the Great Thangtong Gyalpo, who was the founder of Tibetan Lhamo/Opera.

The founder of this operatic tradition was equally well known for his initiative in building permanent bridges and ferries across many rivers in Tibet. After attaining great scholarship in Buddhism from Jangdhing Bu monastery, Thangtong Gyalpo undertook a pilgrimage to Lhasa; he came across many rivers en route and experienced the difficulties of crossing these huge rivers and saw that many human and animal lives are taken away by these rivers in the absence of any bridges.

He thus pledged to himself to build suspension bridges across these huge and often wild rivers. He found rich patrons for the initial some of the earlier bridges, but slowly he experienced shortage of financial resources for this venture. He concluded that he must device a means of a voluntary contribution from the public at large which would not only raise the necessary resources for this monumental tasks, but would also become a medium of spreading the dharma through entertainment. He thus conceived and introduced the Lhamo culture in Tibet.

Lhamo is an Opera where two to three dozen artistes take part. Legend has it that Thangtong Gyalpo trained seven sisters who excelled in the arts of singing and dancing and who performed under his leadership to raise fund for building the bridges. Thus the name Lhamo, meaning heavenly dancing goddesses. Lhamo performances in pre-1959 Tibet was the most popular form of public entertainment. So much so that by the 19th century "Lhamo" opera was found throughout Tibet with each major areas having permanent regional troupe, performing for the local populace and participating in the "Shoton" Opera Festival, literally meaning the "Yogurt Festival", in the gardens of the Norbu Lingka Palace in Lhasa whose audience included a personage as high as His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

This film profiles Tibetan Lhamo Association of Kathmandu and their experience in creating the opera based on the life of Thangtong Gyalpo, and then practicing and finally performing in the Shoton Opera Festival in Dharamshala before His Holiness the Dalai Lama.



A documentary by John Halpern, (US)
Executive Producer: D.B. Pictures
Writer/ Narrator: Les Levine
Composer: Steve Reich
Camera: Wayne De Laroche, Liz Dory, Rahul Ranadive
Editor: Michael Dobsevage
US 2005 | 57 minutes | English

Since the beginning of the 20th Century, Westerners have been travelling to the East in search of spiritual wisdom. By the 1950's Eastern meditation masters were coming to the West and establishing meditation centres here. Refuge is the story of those journeys East and West, towards refuge, and the amazing success of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

In Buddhism, "refuge" means being initiated into Buddhism. The initiate states, ("From this moment forward I will seek refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.") But, the word "refuge" always implies seeking a safe-haven and escaping danger. Westerners are seeking refuge in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists are seeking refuge in the West.

Refuge takes a fresh look at the progress of Tibetan Buddhism and its fascination for artists, writers and filmmakers. Oliver Stone: "I responded to the Buddha's story because of his intelligence. It's a beautiful story". Martin Scorsese: "I think to a certain extent Buddhism might give us an insight and a rebirth of the very essentials of what, for example, Christianity preaches."

All questions about "What is contemporary Buddhism now?" are answered by Hollywood's foremost movie directors and the greatest living meditation masters who have established themselves in the West including: Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Dzongzar Khyentse (The Cup), screenwriter Melissa Mathison, composer Philip Glass, and the 14th Dalai Lama.

Searching For Aristotle

Searching For Aristotle

A short film by Nimrod Amitai (Chile)
Chile 2005 | 16 minutes | Fiction | Spanish with English subtitles

A young filmmaker trying to understand Aristotle's theory about drama one night.

The film has been screened at the 4th International Student Film Festival, Beijing, China, 06 Nov 2005, and the International Student Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel, 05 July 2006.

The film is the winner of Best Cinematography, Vina International Film Festival, Chile, and the winner of the Best Short Film Normandi Film Festival, Santiago, Chile.

Nimrod Amitai is a 23 year old filmmaker from Chile. He finished his five years film school, writing and directing four short films and two video clips, receiving an MTV Award nomination and two selections in international film festivals in Israel and China. He also won awards on cinematography and script writing during his attendance in film festivals in Chile.

His last work, Searching For Aristotle, is based on him as a film student and speaks about the magical moment of creative creation.

His previous work, Golden Wedding, tells the story of an old guy, a red velvet couch and a prostitute, and how all things fit together one night to find affection and compassion.

Currently Nimrod is working on his next project, which combines photography and storytelling, creating fiction stories out of portraits taken in more than ten countries in Asia and Europe. The main idea is to expose the beauty that lies within our differences and similarities.

Golden Wedding

Golden Wedding

A short film by Nimrod Amitai (Chile)
Chile 2004 | 12 minutes | Fiction | Spanish with English subtitles

At the night of his 50 years wedding aniversary, one old widower will find a touch of affection.

The film is the winner of Best Screenplay 2004 UNIACC, Santiago, Chile.

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