Now I should probably be working away, preparing for Students for a Free Tibet Canada‘s upcoming events, or better yet, catching up on some ZZZ’s, but I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer; I just had to put up a blog post proclaiming my anticipation for this week’s SFT events!
This week, Students for a Free Tibet Canada, along with the Canada Tibet Committee, are hosting the 3rd annual Toronto Tibet Film Festival . We have an amazing line up of films (if I do say so myself!)starting with a free screening of Leaving Fear Behind at 6pm on Friday April 9th . This is the film shot by political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen who was detained in March 2008, and was recently sentenced to 6 years in prison, simply for capturing the views of ordinary Tibetans inside Tibet about China’s policies in Tibet. SFT has been doing a lot of campaigning for the immediate release of Dhondup Wangchen, and I’m sure everyone will know why after seeing this moving film. Political activist and writer, Jamyang Norbu, will be a special guest speaker after this screening, which I’m really excited about!
The second film we’ll be showing Friday night at 7:30pm is A Song for Tibet. This film tells the story of the efforts by Tibetan-Canadians to save Tibet and preserve the Tibetan heritage while living in Canada. This was actually produced in Canada (with scenes in India as well) in 1991 which makes it really unique since the Tibetan population wasn’t very large back then. This is a movie I find particularly interesting since I’ve lived in Canada practically my whole life, and was witness to the efforts by the early Tibetan community struggling to get their voices heard here in Canada as well as trying to keep our culture and traditions alive here in the West. I watched as my parents gave presentations to local schools about Tibet, wrote letters to politicians asking them to help Tibet, and saw their photos and interviews in the local paper as they tried to highlight Tibet the best they could in small-town Ontario. I even remember giving an interview and singing a Tibetan song on CBC Radio with my siblings and cousins (W & J) when I was probably 4 years old, as the reporter was trying to show how Tibetans were struggling to maintain our language and culture in the diaspora. And of course, we, as Tibetan children, were subjected to (I wasn’t a big fan at the time, but am now so glad I had the opportunity!) performing cultural Tibetan dances – something I’m sure 90% of Tibetan children from the early Tibetan-Canadian community had to do at some point, as our parents tried their best to instil the Tibetan culture in us away from our homeland… but I digress. This film covers these same issues, focussing on the Montreal Tibetan Community, so it was really interesting seeing how much was being done for Tibet in another Tibetan-Canadian community, at such a high-calibre level, and showing, really, how grassroots the Tibetan movement has always been. And as a special treat, Dicki Chhoyang, who is featured in the film will be there as a guest speaker after the film.
The final film playing Friday night at 9:30pm will be Unmistaken Child . This is really interesting documentary showing the four-year search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan Lama who passed away in 2001. This film is a great illustration of the reincarnation process regarding the lineage of Tibetan monks – something that many people seem to have questions about when they ask how His Holiness the Dalai Lama is chosen as the leader of the Tibetan people; so seeing this film will definitely be a informative and entertaining way to get those questions answered.
Starting off the festival Saturday at 4:30pm will be Women of Tibet , a 2-part series. Gyalyum Chemo, The Great Mother, explores the Great Mother Archetype and the life of Dekyi Tsering, the mother of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, whom The Dalai credits a lot of his character and personality to. A Quiet Revolution chronicles March 12, 1959, when an estimated 15,000 unarmed Tibetan women took to the streets of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to oppose the violent and illegal occupation of Tibet by the Chinese communist forces. This series won an Emmy Award in 2009.
At 7pm Saturday, Fire Under the Snow , directed by Makoto Sasa, will play at our festival. This documentary features Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was arrested by the Chinese army in 1959, and spent the next 33 years in prison for “crimes” of peaceful demonstration. This film investigates the basis of Palden’s resilience, and reveals the contours of an inspirational story and looks into the survival of a mind and soul under unthinkable duress. I know many members of Students for a Free Tibet who first joined and became interested in Tibet after seeing Palden Gyatso speak, so his story is definitely one not-to-be-missed.
Finally, The Sun Behind the Clouds , playing at 9pm Saturday, will end our festival with a big bang! Jamyang Norbu, who is also featured in this film, will join us once again as a guest speaker for this screening. This film has been surrounded by controversy lately because of the Chinese government pulling out their state-produced films from festivals where this film plays. This film also just recently won the One World International Human Rights Film Festival 2010 Vaclav Havel Award. What also makes this screening really exciting is that it’s the first time it’s being shown in Canada! It hasn’t even been premiered here yet, but the Directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam have allowed us to show it as a special community screening. I was fortunate to have watched it at a special screening two months ago in New York, and I can’t stress enough how much I think people NEED to watch this film. Basically this film narrates the debate between Full Independence for Tibet and the Middle Way Path, which in itself is really interesting since it provides a platform for both sides to get their views across so openly, but what’s also great is how recent the footage is. This film is brand new and was released this year, so there is amazing footage from Tibet, India, Nepal, and the West, shot from the last two years – which a lot of us know have been paradigm-shifting for the Tibetan movement. Personally, I have never been so moved by a Tibetan film, and really, really hope that every Tibetan, nay, every person of conscience sees this film. This film is actually being premiered in New York right now; to see footage of the premiere in NY and reviews from people who saw the film, as well as an interview with Ritu and Tenzing by SFT, check out the lastest episode of SFTtv.
Now before I end off this longggg blog post, I wanted to also let everyone know that SFT Canada will also being organizing a public talk called Independent Tibet! The Facts by Jamyang Norbu at the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto this Saturday (April 10th) at 2:30pm. I’ve been told that Jamyang Norbu is a great inspirational speaker, and having read some of his writings, I’m really excited to be able to hear him speak for the first time. For more information about this exciting event, please click here!
I feel like I’ve used the word ‘exciting’ a lot in this post, so I hope you don’t mind if I use it a few more times (I’ll go buy a thesaurus tomorrow); I’m so excited for this week, and even more excited about people getting to experience these films. I know everyone will come out changed in one form or another, and this for me, is probably the most exciting aspect! (Okay I promise I’ll stop using that word now) I hope that you, and your friends and family will join us for this…. AMAZING event!
Even if you don’t live in the Toronto area, please help us spread the word and let any friends or family you may have in Toronto know about the Toronto Tibet Film Festival. TO GET YOUR TICKETS NOW, CLICK HERE!
See you there! I hope the EXCITEMENT is a brewing for you too now…