THE SUN BEHIND THE CLOUDS: TIBET’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM (Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam, 2010)
209 West Houston St.
March 31 – April 13
At the Palm Springs International Film Festival earlier this year, China withdrew Lu Chuan’s CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH and Ye Kai’s QUICK, QUICK, SLOW in protest of the festival’s inclusion of the pro-Tibet documentary THE SUN BEHIND THE CLOUDS. CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH, which examines the 1937 Rape of Nanking, was scheduled to open at Film Forum on March 31, but the distributor could not guarantee that China would allow it to be shown, so Film Forum filled the open slot with THE SUN BEHIND THE CLOUDS. Subtitled TIBET’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM, the seventy-nine-minute film, made by husband-and-wife team Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, delves into the battle between those Tibetans who follow the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach, in which Tibet would seek autonomy from China but not full independence, and those that want their country back completely. Sarin and Sonam, who have been documenting the situation in Tibet for nearly twenty years in such films as THE TRIALS OF TELO RINPOCHE (1994), THE SHADOW CIRCUS: THE CIA IN TIBET (1998), the narrative feature DREAMING LHASA (2005), and THE THREAD OF KARMA (2007), focus on the March 2008 uprising, the biggest since the Chinese invasion of 1959.
Tibetans were protesting Chinese rule and hoped to grab public attention as the Beijing Olympics approached, particularly one group that began a long march from their exiled home in India back to Tibet. The filmmakers gained intimate access to the Dalai Lama, who explains his position of peace, while also interviewing such controversial figures as poet Tenzin Tsundue, historian Tsering Shakya, former political prisoner Rigzin Choekyi, activist Lhadon Tethong, writer Lhasang Tsering, poet Woeser and her husband, political commentator Wang Lixiong, and others. They also speak with filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who was later sentenced to six years in prison; the International Campaign for Tibet has recently claimed that he “suffers from a medical condition and is being denied adequate treatment. His whereabouts in detention are currently unknown.” Watching THE SUN BEHIND THE CLOUDS, it is easy to see why the Chinese government is so afraid of it, as the film depicts a growing movement of Tibetans in India, the diaspora, and Tibet itself who are questioning the nonviolent ways of the Dalai Lama and are ready to fight for the restoration of their homeland, and their continuing plight is gaining support from people around the world. The filmmakers will be present for screenings on March 31 at 8:00, April 1 at 8:00, April 3 at 4:20, and April 4 at 2:40; Lhadon Tethong of Students for a Free Tibet will be at the April 2, 8:00 screening; and Tibet House cofounder and president Robert A. F. Thurman will participate in the April 6, 8:00 showing.