By Kevin Thomas
There have been many impressive documentaries on Tibet and the plight of its people, but none like Francois Prevost and Hugo Latulippe's "What Remains of Us." Kalsang Dolma—a Tibetan born in exile in India who immigrated to Canada—visited her ancestral land for the first time in 1996, accompanied by Prevost and Latulippe. She carried with her a portable video player carrying a five-minute message from the Dalai Lama, who has been unable to speak directly to his people for more than half a century. There's a cruel irony here: His voice, strong and distinctive, whether he is speaking in English or his native language, is familiar the world over—except in his own land.
At great risk, Dolma and the filmmakers visited the homes of numerous Tibetans, some deep in the region's interior. The Dalai Lama offers a message of hope in the face of hardships and the specter of genocide under long-oppressive Chinese rule, which has cost the lives of an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans, with 200,000 more forced into exile. Within Tibet, thousands of ancient monasteries and sacred places have been destroyed, and the land has been exploited and polluted. "This is the biggest prison in the world," Dolma observes.
The Dalai Lama explains that Tibetan spirituality and compassion, deeply rooted in Buddhism, have become an inspiration for the world, that these values must be cherished and passed along, and that any resistance must be nonviolent. Behind the closed doors of their homes, the Dalai Lama's audiences are moved to tears and speak openly of their virtually total lack of freedom. Yet as one nun, no longer allowed to wear her habit, says, "We live on faith and hope. That's all we have."
Running time: 1:17. Plays Oct. 24-30 at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave.