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Cinesol Movie Review: Heaven In Exile

September 16, 2010

Crystal Olvera
The Monitor
September 14, 2010

Omar W. Rosales takes on a heavy burden in
documenting the life and culture of the Tibetan
people in his documentary “Heaven in Exile.”
Tibet’s struggle for Independence has long been
chronicled in numerous documentaries, feature
films and in the media. So what new information
does Rosales bring to the table? Not much.

To cover an extensive topic like Buddhism is a
daunting project, but Rosales attempts to do it
anyway. Although he manages to capture beautiful
landscapes and remarkable portraits of Tibetan
people, the documentary may still be too big of a
challenge for this first-time director.

Rosales spends time visiting Indian monasteries
in places such as Darjeeling, Dharmsala and
Siliguri. He interviews monks in training and
experts on Tibetan Buddhism, including the Dalai Lama.

Shots of young monks getting their heads shaved
and a close-up view of some of the ceremonies
held in the monasteries make up the most
compelling footage. Interviews with the Dalai
Lama and the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu
sect of Tibetan Buddhism, are both insightful,
but the film still leaves much to be desired.

At times, the documentary seems disjointed and
lacks clear transitions between topics. Some of
the footage is shown without narration, which
could better inform the viewer of what is
happening. What did the orange flower petals
scattered across the street signify before the
ceremonies? How did these children feel about becoming monks?

Also, the director’s hosting and interviewing
style is awkward, and at times, it distracts from
the stories his subjects are trying to tell.
Rosales’ purpose for the film is also confusing.
He introduces himself as a traveler, but says
nothing about what he hopes to accomplish, except
to “locate a heaven in exile.”

Nevertheless, the film gives viewers a glimpse
into the life of the teachings of the Dalai Lama
even if it’s just a snapshot. And those searching
for a view of India’s colorful landscapes may
also want to give “Heaven in Exile” a try.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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