By Phuntsok Yanghen
DHARAMSHALA, October 25: The 6th Tibet Film Festival, held simultaneously in Zurich and Dharamsala, began here at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts today with the screening of nine short films of five minutes each on the theme "return", marking the release earlier in June of the Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen from Chinese prison.
The top three films from the competition that is aimed at promoting filmmaking among Tibetan youth will be announced tomorrow.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the festival, Golog Jigme, who had assisted Dhondup Wangchen in filming Leaving Fear Behind, said, “Leaving Fear Behind has very good story but may have lacked in techniques of filming or cinematography. However, it is special because we had managed to capture the feeling of Tibetans in Tibet despite China’s censorship.”
“I never thought that I would ever get an opportunity to talk about Leaving Fear Behind (Jigdrel). We knew that we were risking our lives or might have to face heavy imprisonment,” said Jigme, who escaped to India this year.
The two-day festival here will screen seven films made by both Tibetans inside and outside Tibet including 'Kokonor' by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang, 'The Hunter and the Skeleton' by Gendun Gyatso and “Tibetan Guerillas in Exile” by Kalsang Rinchen.
Films screened in Zurich, where it started on Friday and will conclude on Saturday, include 'Who will be a Gurkha' by Kalsang Tseten, 'Vara: A Blessing' by Khentse Norbu and 'Bringing Tibet Home' by Tenzin Tseten Choklay, among others.
Tenzin Dhondup, the coordinator of the festival in Dharamsala said, “One of the objectives of the Tibet Film Festival is to create a platform for artistic expression for filmmakers within the Tibetan community, and to create awareness about filmmaking in the Tibetan diaspora.
“This is the 4th year that the Tibet Film Festival is happening in Dharamshala, and would not have been possible without the help of volunteers and sponsors. We hope to sustain the festival through continued support from the community.”
Audiences in Zurich and Dharamsala voted separately for the 'Audience Award' from the nine short film entries. Tenzin Lama from Hamburg, Germany, won the 'Audience Award' at the festival in Zurich while the winner for Dharamshala will be announced on Sunday.
The festival here also featured paintings by Tibetan thangka artist Karma Sichoe and photos by Choenyi Woser, Editor of Tibet Express. Three young aspiring filmmakers, Tenzin Phuljung, Takhla and Tenphel, took part in a discussion about Tibetan films and related issues.
Dedicated to Dhondup Wangchen, the Film festival is organized by Filming for Tibet and supported by Students for a Free Tibet, India. Dhondup Wangchen conceived and shot the film "Leaving Fear Behind" (Tib:Jigdrel) to portray life in Tibet months before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He was arrested on March 26, 2008 for filming interviews with ordinary Tibetans on their views on the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama and Chinese government’s policies in Tibet.