By Tenzin Sangmo
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.
Still from the documentary.
"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 www.leavingfearbehind.com