RIFF began September 23 and will end on October 3, 2010.
Dharamsala, September 27 – The International Reykjavik Film Festival, which opened Thursday, stood adamant over its decision to screen a documentary film on Tibetan freedom struggle despite pressure from China.
Hrönn Marinósdóttir, the director of the film festival currently underway in Iceland was summoned to the Chinese embassy in Reykjavik and asked to withdraw the film from the festival, according to a statement by the director of the film. The Chinese Embassy told her that the Chinese government disapproves the documentary, the film’s German-American director Dirk Simon said in the statement. “When she declined, the Chinese embassy complained to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Reykjavik and implied economical and political consequences for the Chinese-Icelandic relationships if my film screens.”
The festival committee, however, decided to screen the film as originally scheduled on September 27th, 28th and 29th and October 1st.
The Director of the Department for International Affairs at the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Emil Breki Hreggvidsson, said that “no formal request” has been made by the Chinese embassy and in any case, “Which films are shown in the cinemas is not an issue for the Ministry.”
According to Dirk, it took him 7 years to shoot 800 hours of footage in India, Beijing and Chinese occupied Tibet. He says that his film provides “an in-depth look behind the scenes of the Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation. With the countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the Olympic Torch route fiasco as a backdrop.”
Dirk boasts of some exclusive interviews and rare archival material with a soundtrack by Philip Glass, Thom Yorke and Damien Rice. The film features Richard Gere, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 14th Dalai Lama, some of the most prominent Chinese contemporary artists, and key figures of the exiled Tibetan movement.
Dirk says China’s opposition to this documentary is all the more surprising as the film gives both sides of the conflict a chance to speak and does not hesitate to explore the dissensions between the Dalai Lama’s nonviolent, middle-way policy and Tibetan radicals who seek complete independence from China.
Dirk admits that growing up in a divided Germany has considerably affected him in his quest for freedom, which has become one of his key topics. “More than any other film on that subject matter, my film avoids painting a ‘black and white’ picture. It highlights the complexity of the issue on both sides. There are facts and numbers you can’t ignore, like how many Tibetans have died as a direct result of China’s invasion and occupation. But the film also shows love and compassion in China and raises questions and concerns about the Tibetan freedom movement in exile. I think it is time to have an open dialogue.”