Tibet in the Cinema

"Now, if you were born in a cinema...
Grew up there... and the only world that you have is the cinema...
And you have no other means to tell yourself that this is not real...
There is no other source to make you realize that this is a film...
You keep on thinking that this is real life.

Then you have a hard time walking out."

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche


Please note that not all of these films have an English soundtrack. Some are in Tibetan, others have French dialogue. Most have subtitles. In general even if you have no knowledge of these languages, this should not however impair your enjoyment of the film to any great extent.


An award-winning documentary which took ten years to make, Cry of the Snowlion is an in-depth investigative report on the events in Tibet  from the 1950 Communist invasion through to the present day. Interviews with eyewitnesses to the atrocities of the CCP, and firsthand accounts from victims of imprisonment and torture back-up the reporters' findings of malpractice and oppression.

With a style reminiscent of the BBC's  'Horizon' documentaries, you'll find this relatively long report (90min) both engrossing and thought-provoking.  English language.

Included on the DVD version is addtional footage shot while on-tour, giving exclusive glimses of the life of ordinary people in Tibet. The spontaneity of these images -including life and work in rural areas, and local sporting events and festivals- are in marked contrast to the choreographed, idealised images more often seen in CCP-approved releases on Tibet. Plus, there are breathtaking views of the mountain environment. The standard of photography alone makes it worth getting hold of a copy.  The DVD is currently only available as a Region One release, and is none too easy to obtain outside of the USA- but that may change soon. 



One of the the most relevant films to the plight of the Tibetan people, Windhorse tells the story of an aspiring Tibetan pop singer who wins favor with the Chinese government of occupied Tibet, but faces a crisis of conscience when her cousin, a Buddhist nun, is imprisoned and tortured for her religious beliefs. The singer and her brother join forces to secretly videotape the testimony of their cousin and sneak it out of Tibet.

A Paul Wagner film.

Tibetan language, English subs.

Screened at the Aberdeen Belmont, 19 May 2003.


An account of a leadership struggle within a remote Tibetan village, and the progress of the ensuing salt-caravan across the Himalayas. Shot in a rather stilted "Spaghetti-Western" style, with limited dialogue and exaggerated action, it's nevertheless a gripping storyline.
The superb mountain photography alone is enough to justify a viewing.

French language, English subs.




A humourous look at Buddhist monastery life through the eyes of a young footie fanatic whose interests are more in "the game" and satellite-TV than in the ancient wisdom of the lamas! Entertaining, and directed in a much less-serious style than the other Tibetan films. Filmed in the neighbouring himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, The Cup has established itself as a popular film in the West.

Tibetan language, English subs.



Seven Years in Tibet

A chronicle of the journey into Tibet by Austrian mountaneer Heinrich Harrer in the 1940's. Fleeing from WW2 Europe, Harrer finds himself scaling the Himalayas into the seldom-visited land of Tibet. Thus, Harrer became one of the few Westerners to have any firsthand experience of Tibetan lifestyle and culture before the Chinese takeover. Harrer's experiences include establishing a close friendship with the Dalai Lama and His court. His experiences give us an insight into the lives of the people of this harsh and demanding terrain, and of a system of government which had few parallels in the Western world- One which had remained a stable, self-suficient and peaceful society for many centuries.

English. Based on the well-known book by the same name.

`Kundun' relates the life and times of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama,from his birth in 1935, followed by his his being officially recognised as the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. The film details the events of his life as the leader of his people, up to the timeof the Chinese invasion and the subsequent flight across the Himalayas to avoid capture by Chinese forces. A film with a rather lengthy introduction, but includes some outstanding photography and many dramatic action-sequences.



" Physical comforts cannot subdue mental suffering, and if we look closely, we can see that those who have many possessions are not necessarily happy. In fact, being wealthy often brings even more anxiety." H.H. The Dalai Lama