In 1987 Chinese soldiers put down a Tibetan protest, killing and maiming monks and arresting peaceful activists. This film backtracks to tell the history of Tibet and its centuries’ old culture, intact until the Communist government of Mao Zedong claimed sovereignty for China in 1950. The film examines the complex history and rich spirituality of Tibet, and explores the beauty of the “rooftop of the world”. Interviews with Tibetan scholars, Buddhist monks and victims of China’s oppressive program shine a light on Tibet’s complicated position in the world today.
Filmed over ten years, the team of director Peosay and his screenwriter wife Sue Peosay travelled extensively in Tibet and crafted this loving tribute to the peaceful resistance of the Tibetan people. Martin Sheen provides clear-eyed narration and engaged celebrities provide voice-overs, but we also hear from the Dalai Lama himself, who fled Tibet in 1959. Rare footage of Buddhist ceremonies illuminates Tibet’s history; footage of the holy city of Lhasa’s Red Light district (for the Chinese soldiers garrisoned there) is a reminder of the forced changes imposed on this tiny country. Tibet is a hot button topic, and this remarkable documentary helps inform, while also enchanting us with its photography and vision.