TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION (7/10)
2004 by Tony Medley
are a lot of bad things happening in the world, many stories so easy to
ignore. At the top of the list is the destruction of the rain forest,
which has circled the equatorial earth for 60 million years. 40% of the
primary tropical rainforest was destroyed in the last 50 years of the 20th
57 acres of rainforest are destroyed every minute!
Mankind destroys 17 million trees worldwide every day
(that's equal to an area three times bigger than Switzerland destroyed every
At last count there were approximately 2,700 man-made
fires raging in the Amazon alone. Twenty five percent of our
prescription medicine comes from 10% of the known rainforest plants.
But, only an estimated 5-25% of all plant species have been
1,300 of the known 2,000 cancer-fighting
plants come from the rainforests.
But only 1% of the total number of plants have been studied for
medicinal properties! Imagine those that have been destroyed forever,
and those that are being destroyed forever as we speak!
Below that, but no
less dismaying is the treatment of native Tibetans by the Chinese
Communists. Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion, ten years in the making,
documents this destruction with astounding pictures and interviews.
the Chinese Communists ousted Chiang Kai Shek in 1949 they invaded Tibet
and sealed it off from the rest of the world. Upon Mao Tse Tung’s
death 25 years later hope arose among Tibetans as Mao’s successors
permitted an exile delegation to return to prepare for discussions with
China. But there was such an outpouring of weeping, grief-stricken
crowds imploring the delegation to tell the Dalai Lama of their
suffering that China quickly withdrew its permission. Touching films
document the hordes that descended on the delegation.
There are individual
stories of heroism of Tibetans, like Palden Gyatso, a young monk in
1959, who was captured in the brutal crackdown after the Dalai Lama
escaped and spent the next 33 years in captivity, subjected to violent
physical and psychological torture. He escaped and brought with him the
electric prods (sometimes put in his mouth) and other instruments used
to torture him. He has testified many places, including the U.S.
The CIA apparently
supported Tibetan resistance, but, according to this film, this ended
during the Nixon Administration starting with Henry Kissinger’s secret
trip to China. Now, according to the film, because of the burgeoning
Chinese economy, support for Tibetan resistance is waning because of
fear of alienating Chinese economic power.
excerpts from an interview with an arrogant, hateful Chinese Communist
spokesman at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., Chen Guo Ching,
who says, at one point, “It is totally unacceptable to the Chinese
government for officials of any country to meet him (the Dalai Lama) in
Of the 68 interviews
conducted for the film, 38 appear in the final cut. Included are Robert
Ford, who lived in Tibet before the Chinese invasion, was there at the
time of the invasion, and was imprisoned by the Chinese for five years,
Jeanne Kirkpatrick, President Reagan’s Ambassador to the United
Nations (“What the west has done is avert its eyes while genocide
takes place in Tibet.”), Robert Thurman, Uma’s father, a former
Tibetan Buddhist monk and a close friend of the Dalai Lama, Wei
Jingsheng, Chinese human rights advocate who was imprisoned for more
than 18 years, Ani Pachen, former nun, imprisoned and tortured for 21
years, Ama Adhe Tapontsang,
a woman who survived 28 brutal years of Chinese imprisonment, and the
Dalai Lama himself.
One big glitch for
me was when one of the interviewees said, (I’m paraphrasing here),
”The Chinese have to get real democracy, which requires…independent
trade unions.” What? Since when is democracy defined by having
“independent trade unions?” It’s too bad that such political bias
shows up in what should be a nonpolitical tract about freedom. Such a
quote denigrates what the filmmakers are trying to do. They left almost
half of the interviews they conducted out of the final cut. They should
have cut this statement, instead of emphasizing it. Another detraction was
the sound track which was burdened by dropouts throughout and made the
audio often disconcerting.
Produced by Tom and
Sue Peosay, Victoria Mudd, and Maria Florio, they all came together from
different starts to create this so easy to ignore story. They used never
before seen stills, Chinese police footage, and images shot by
witnesses. Over 300 hours of footage was shot during its ten years of
production. Producer-Director-Photographer Tom Peosay took nine separate
trips to Tibet. I’m told that Narrator Martin Sheen donated his
services, as did Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Ed Harris, Frank
Christopher, Edward Edwards, Shirley Knight, and Lynn Marta for their
the film is too long, 104 minutes, it is such a compelling story that it
should not be missed. The photography of Tibet is as gorgeous as the
footage and stories of Chinese atrocities are disturbing. But the story
of the destruction of this peaceful civilization, told by the people
being destroyed, is something you won’t soon forget.
April 2, 2004