Pema Tseden in an undated photo.
DHARAMSHALA, June 11: Multiple award-winning Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden has won the “Best Narrative Feature” for his movie “Old Dog” (Khyi rgan) at the Brooklyn Film Festival which concluded yesterday.
Competing with more than 100 premieres from nearly 30 countries, “Old Dog” was voted amongst the best at the June 1 – 10, 2012 Festival, winning a total of US $57,000 in prizes and film services.
Award-winning films at the Brooklyn Film Festival, recognised as one of the “most trusted and respected arbiters of excellence in the art of filmmaking” have gone on to be nominated and awarded at both the British Academy Awards and at the American Academy Awards.
"Old Dog," a poetic story about Tibet's changing society, where old values are in direct conflict with new, has a Tibetan cast consisting of Yanbum Gyal, Drolma Kyab, Lochey, and Tamdrin Tso.
Sonthar Gyal, who has worked on many projects with Tseden, is the cinematographer and Sangye Bhum has edited the film.
In a review for Indiewire, Christopher Bell called “Old Dog” a “true gem and the mark of an especially skilled director.”
“While his outlook on things is unrelentingly critical, he’s not being negative for the sake of it -- there’s some true passion behind this work, and Tseden is a director with plenty to say on all topics, ranging from the younger generation's lack of connection to their heritage to the troubling relationship between Tibet and China,” Bell wrote.
“Instead of pressing in for dramatic impact, he tends to stay static, and from a distance -- the results cause one to feel as if they’re living there, in the moment. Though the characters are reticent, we can feel their presence, their bonds, their life.”
“(M)ark our words, Pema Tseden is a name you’ll be seeing in contention for the Palme d’Or in the not-too-distant future,” Bell noted.
Tseden, who was in New York to showcase his film at the festival spoke about one of his next projects in the pipeline, coincidentally titled "America."
"It's about a Western cow, not the traditional one found in Tibet. This time the story would take place in Central Tibet. One family purchases a very expensive cow from a foreign country because they were told that it would produce a lot of milk. They're unsure what to name it, and since they know there are a lot of these in America, that’s what they name it,” Tseden said in an interview. “When they attempt to breed it, it inexplicably dies, leading to an investigation from the security department. Because of this chain of events, the relationships between people in this particular tight-knit village change, which is the main point I'm going for. It's structurally different from 'Old Dog,' and the movie will start when the cow is already dead, with people giving their individual stories to the security department."
Born in 1969 in Amdo, eastern Tibet, Tseden shot into international fame with his movie “The Search” which won the Special Jury Prize at the Bangkok International Film Festival in 2009.
The same year, he won the Grand Prize at the Shanghai International Film Festival. Danny Boyle, Oscar winning director of the Slumdog Millionaire, who was heading the jury later said that “The Search” was the “most challenging” film the jury saw.
An avid writer, Tseden has published over 50 short stories and novels in Tibetan and Chinese, and was a winner of the Tibetan literature prize, Drang-Char.
“I wish my camera could capture the spirit of the people of my homeland as they hold on to their dignity,” Tseden has been quoted as saying about his work.