Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Tibetan filmmaker's documentary lands him in Chinese prison

August 11, 2008

By Tenzin Sangmo
August 9, 2008

New Delhi, August 9 - Amateur filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, 37 and his
helper Golog Jigme, a monk were detained for secretly interviewing
and filming Tibetans in the eastern region of Amdo and across the
Tibetan plateau. The duo traveled to remote corners filming over
thirty five hours of interviews from October 2007 to March 2008. The
tapes were transported to Switzerland on March 10, 2008 where
Wangchen's cousin Gyaljong Tsetrin put the final cut together. The 25
minute long documentary film Leaving Fear Behind features twenty
ethnic Tibetans; their views on the Beijing Olympics, the present
situation inside the country and the return of the Dalai Lama.

A screening and media briefing was held at the Press Club of India in
New Delhi August 8. Dhondup Wangchen's wife Lhamo Tso, 35 and his
brother Dorjee Wangchen, 31 who fled Tibet in 2007 were present at
the occasion.

"Dhondup Wangchen spent most of his time helping the needy and
serving the community. He's a good husband and a good father to our
four children. I appeal to the Chinese Government to release Dhondup.
I urge the IOC to use their influence on China so that the host of
the Olympic Games remains true to its promise of freedom of
expression to the people," she said through tears.

Dorjee Wangchen, the younger brother of the detained filmmaker said,
"My family and I thought a lot about whether the movie should be
released or not. It would lead to their arrest and detention but
Dhondup considered showing it to the world very important."

The final version of the documentary was screened to international
media at Beijing on August 6 but the public screening was cut short
by agents from the Public Security Bureau with reports that the hotel
which screened it being shut down later.

All those filmed risks a grave threat to their safety with the
release of the documentary, many have even said on film that if their
messages were relayed to the Dalai Lama in exile and He watches it,
they would not fear the consequences.

"I hope the film becomes a channel for those inside Tibet and their
voices don't go unheard," said Tendon Dahortsang on behalf of the
producers of the film.

The press conference was hosted by the Association of Tibetan
Journalists to relay information about the suppression of citizen
journalism inside Tibet and to urge the Beijing authorities to open
Tibet to foreign reporters and facilitate their journalistic duties.

Dhondup Wangchen was last seen in detention at Guangsheng Binguan in
Xining (Qinghai province) and Golog Jigme at a detention center in
the town of Lingxia (Gansu province)

The short documentary has been made available online.

For further details visit

Produced by Filming for Tibet

Leaving Fear Behind (in Tibetan, Jigdrel) is a heroic film shot by
Tibetans from inside Tibet, who longed to bring Tibetan voices to the
Beijing Olympic Games. With the global spotlight on China as it rises
to host the XXIX Olympics, Tibetans wish to tell the world of their
plight and their heartfelt grievances against Chinese rule. The
footage was smuggled out of Tibet under extraordinary circumstances.
The filmmakers were detained soon after sending their tapes out, and
remain in detention today.

In a remarkable coincidence, filming concluded in early March 2008 on
the eve of the eruption of unprecedented mass Tibetan protests across
the Tibetan plateau. Shot primarily in the eastern provinces of
Tibet, the film provides a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the
Tibetan people and their longstanding resentment of Chinese policies in Tibet.

The filmmakers traversed thousands of miles, asking ordinary Tibetans
what they really feel about the Dalai Lama, China, and the Olympic
Games. The filmmakers gave their subjects the option of covering
their faces, but almost all of the 108 people interviewed agreed to
have their faces shown on film, so strong was their desire to express
themselves to the world. Excerpts from twenty of the interviews,
including a self-recorded interview of the filmmaker himself, are
included in the 25 minute film.

The footage reveals with stark clarity that Tibetans are frustrated
and embittered by the deterioration and marginalization of Tibetan
language and culture; the destruction of the lifestyle of Tibetan
nomads through Chinese forced settlement policies; the lack of
religious freedom and the vilification of the Dalai Lama; and the
broken promises made by the Chinese government to improve conditions
in Tibet in the run up to the Olympic games. All are united in their
reverence for the Dalai Lama and long for him to return, and as some
even dream, to attend the Olympic Games.

View the documentary on YouTube
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank