With an assemblage of footage from many sources, and a powerful cast of
narrators and talking heads (Martin Sheen (narrator), Edward Edwards, Ed
Harris, Shirley Knight, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Robert Thurman, and
Dalai Lama), this documentary makes a strong case against the victimization of
Tibet by the Chinese. And, as though it wasn't made strongly enough in the
first 45 minutes, it goes on for another 45 or so to make certain you get the
message. It struck me as more an exercise in film editing, bringing together
a raft of material from different times, different filmmakers and supporters
than as a presentation of enough new revelation to warrant a theatrical
In other words, if I wrote this review the way this film is edited, I'd be
out of a job. It's strictly for PBS programming and for those who didn't
already know about China's suppression of the Tibetans.
Which takes nothing away from any civilized person's desire to improve the
plight of a people that a territory-hungry giant has consumed in a silent
invasion, denying them freedom and religion, depriving them of hope and
development. In 1950 China sent troops to subdue the formerly independent
state. Tibetans have since lived under the shadow of Beijing, subjugated by
a military authority that has banned the Tibetan language in schools, banned
photos of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrested and tortured
dissident monks, killed thousands, repopulated the region with non-Tibetan
Chinese and denied decent employment to the Tibetans.
As though China weren't large, powerful and populous enough. But, while the
filmmakers seem to be pleading for someone to do something about it, a really
pragmatic way of influencing China to withdraw is left as a goal very
difficult of attainment, perhaps in our lifetimes.
What, exactly, will it take to convince China to change its territorially
greedy mind-set? Petitions? An international outcry? If this film causes
anything close to that, it justifies its appearance. My criticism of it is
as a filmmaking effort.
The earnestness behind it doesn't make smooth its incohesive jumpiness,
undisciplined repetition and documentary overkill. The message itself is
clear and unassailable. As a film, the technique barely serves the
well-intentioned motivation presenting it.
~~ Jules Brenner