For most people, sitting through a documentary in a theater is like heading down to your favorite fast-food joint for a salad with fat-free dressing. You know that like the salad, the documentary is the version that's better for you, but somehow it just doesn't satisfy the pop culture craving that you were trying to quench in the first place. But every once in a while a documentary comes along that sounds like a good alternative to scrubbing the bathroom grout on a Saturday afternoon. And when you do take the time to see it, you realize as the lights come on after the show that there's not a dry eye in the house. Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion is that pleasant little cinematic surprise that will tug boldly at your conscience and convince you to spend a little more time thinking about what you can do for the world.
Ten years in the making, Tibet begins without the pleasantries and plunges straight into the violence that befell Tibetan monks and nuns at the hands of Chinese occupiers during a pro-independence rally in 1987. Even before the introductory credits roll on screen, the audience sees the charred flesh hanging from the arms of Champa Tenzin and hears testimony from monks and nuns who were taken prisoner to be beaten and tortured. Once he's got the audience's attention, director Tom Peosay starts at the beginning, tracing the ancient roots of the spiritual people who inhabit the rooftop of the world.
With the help of narrator Martin Sheen and a host of celebrity voices reading translations, Peosay explores the unique landscape of Tibet, the primitive energy and color of Tibetan culture and the depth of Tibet's spiritual serenity. Though Tibet existed for centuries in relative isolation and peace, Peosay briefly accounts for these years in order to focus on the unrest of the country's last half-century in history since the invasion of Chinese People's Liberation Army in 1950. The events unfold onscreen as things that happened in the past in far away places. Mao Tse-tung began his occupation of Tibet with the obscure claim that the invasion was a liberation movement from the control of the Anglo-American Imperialists. From this unlikely seed of American involvement Peosay slowly begins to weave the thread of American involvement throughout history. As the movie approaches events of the present time, Peosay thrusts current U.S. political and economic policy into the blame chair for helping to perpetuate the oppression and violence against the Tibetan people.
In a world where occupation and human rights violations are reported by media throughout the world everyday, and though we may have become hardened to such issues films like Tibet remind us that just because the film is over, the story does not stop. Monks will still be executed as enemies of the state, nuns will still be tortured with electric cattle prods in their vaginas, children will be indoctrinated to believe their culture is evil, and the Panchen Lama will remain isolated from his native land as a political prisoner of the Chinese government.
Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion is a film that will capture your compassion for peace-loving people, it will leave a lasting impression that will prompt you to recommend the film to others, and hopefully, Tibet will enrage you just enough to make you ask what you can do to help.