Escape from Tibet

1 1 September might be on everyone’s mind at the moment, but human rights abuses are still widespread in Chinese-occupied Tibet, as a new film festival illustrates. Words: Heather Walmsley

ungry. scared. exhausted and snow-blind. when

eleven-year-old Ten/in spotted the Yorkshire

Television catnera crew he thought his short life was tip. He was clitnbing a high Himalayan pass. with his elder brother Pasang. to escape (‘hinese oppression in Tibet. They had been walking for weeks. struggling up to 19.000 feet. descending now into Nepal.

‘I didn't know what a camera was.‘ says Tenzin. ‘I saw these people with tripods and I thought they were secttrity guards with guns ready to shoot us.‘ The boys had good reason to be terrified: they had already been imprisoned. and Ten/in had been brutally tortured by guards who forced an electric baton in his mouth.

The cameras belonged to producer Nick (iray and his team. They had been waiting to film some of the two to three thousand refugees who risk their lives on this treacherous escape route every year. So they accompanied the boys on their journey to I)haramsa|a in India hotnc of the Tibetan government-in-exile and His Holiness the l)alai Lama. In a random twist of fate. the boys had become the stars of Escape From Tibet.

()riginally shown on [TV in I995. the documentary has since been seen in 40 countries around the world. Hilary ('Iinton has had a private screening. And if you haven't seen it. now is your chance. as it opens the new Tibetan l’ilm l‘estival in lidinburgh on 3 November. with Pasang and Ten/in as guest speakers. The festival

continues for a week. featuring a range of depictions of

Tibet ~ from Tibetan—language football fable tnade by

monks. The ('up. to Martin Scorsese's Kumltm. ‘Amnesty suggested we look at Tibet. as the worst

case of human rights abuse since the war.‘ says (iray.

22 THE LIST 1 1") No: 7(11)‘.

‘Out of a population of six million, more than 1.2 million have been killed’

Victims of Chinese oppression in Tibet

‘()ut of a population of six million Tibetans. more than 1.2 million have been killed by the Chinese since they invaded in 1950‘ (there’s some context for II September). He was keen. however. to give this documentary a wider appeal hence the risky location. ‘I wanted to tell people about Tibet through a human story. I wanted to take the audience somewhere they’d never been before.’

Sadly. seven years on. list-ape l-‘mm 'Ii'hct has lost none of its relevance. liver tnore severe ‘strike—hard’ and ‘patriotic re-education' campaigns against Tibetan culture and religion. by the Chinese. resulted in at least six executions within the Tibetan Autonomous Region in June of this year. according to the Tibet Information Network. And there are still 252 known political prisoners within Tibet. So. thousands continue to try their luck through the Himalayas to freedom - despite regular reports of beatings. shootings and imprisonment at the Nepalese border.

Today. the boys are joking about the recent reappearance of Ten/.in‘s monastic robes —- in Lost Property at London’s Baker St tube. They have been studying English in London for two years. thanks to numerous kind sponsors. and are remarkably fluent. Ten/in is taking A Levels in philosophy. psychology and literature: Pasang wants to study computers. Both have applied for asylutn in the ITK.

‘I like the life of linglish people. Here. if you work hard you can have a nice life.‘ says Pasang. ‘llere l atn free.’ declares Ten/in. ‘I can study existential philosophy. Ideas written 4()()() years ago cannot fulfil the needs of people in the modern world. I urge ideas to be re— evaluated. reassessed and rewrittenf

Many of the temptations of London life. however. remain ottt of bounds. Ten/in and Pasang may not wear their robes. hang out with Tibetans. or subscribe readily to ancient ideas. but after five years in a monastery in India. both are ordained Buddhist monks. And they adhere rigorously to their rules. That means no boo/e. no sex. no stealing. or taking of any life.

So what do these unwitting lilm stars reckon to the cinema? Should films like Kimdim be rotnanticising Tibet‘.’ Both shake their heads adatnantly. "Tibet is a religious country. not a romantic one.‘ says I’asang. ‘\\'e should show our real culture to the world. We should show our religion.’

The Tibetan Film Festival runs Sat 3-Sat 10 Nov at Filmhouse, Edinburgh. See Film Index and Listings for film details.

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MEANWHILE, THE CAMEO has put out a call for entries for its annual competition, the Jim Poole Short Film Award. Now in it‘s third year, the event has showcased some extremely high quality short film work, as evidenced by previous winners Rachel Bevan Baker’s animation The Green Man Of Knowledge and Adrian McDowall’s Who’s My Favourite Girl. The film submission deadline is 22 January 2002; for further information send an SAE to Cameo Cinema, 38 Home Street, Edinburgh EH3 9L2 or e-mail diane@cameo

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FINALLY, BUDDING screenwriters looking to move into the big league, ought to contact Moonstone about its Screenwriters‘ Lab weekend workshop, to be held in Italy next April. Deadline for applications is 10 January 2002; info from or phone 0131 220 2080.

Museum, playing at The Blue Room