Cinema Signal:

My Tibet
by the Dalai Lama

. "Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion"

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 release.

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.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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