News and Views on Tibet

Tibetan animator’s short film selected for Ottawa International Film Festival

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The Yarlung river flows into the cup as tea, giving life to inhabitants who depend on her (screen grab of the film's trailer)
The Yarlung river flows into the cup as tea, giving life to inhabitants who depend on her (screen grab of the film's trailer)

By Tenzin Dharpo

DHARAMSHALA, Aug. 19: A short animation film ‘Yarlung’ by Tibetan animator Kunsang Kyirong has been selected for the prestigious Ottawa International Film Festival 2020, considered to be the largest animation film festival in North America.

The five-minute film showcases the film maker’s take on her childhood spend on the banks of the Yarlung Tsangpo or the Brahmaputra, the river’s life giving properties and the memories of living as a Tibetan refugee in a small village in Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh. The rustic use of charcoal drawings, strung together into a poetic flow of a deeply personal story is a one-off, especially through the eyes of a Tibetan.

The story follows the narratives of three children who are dependent on the river for sustenance and fun, and how their simplistic overtures are strung into a series of charcoal drawn frames depicting life through acts like drinking tea and fishing, among other things.

Filmaker Kyirong told GlacierHub that the film was originally intended for a documentary project but her love for story telling veered the project into its current form. Kyirong says, “The starting point of this film came from researching the Yarlung Tsangpo and the number of communities that depend on this enormous river that flows from Tibet, into India and merges with the Ganges. I got interested in a cascade of damming projects planned by China and how their dam plans would impact those communities.

“The cool thing about the process was even though the film is a melange of fiction and non-fiction, a lot of the story came spontaneously from the process of straight-ahead animation; similar to how stories unfold when told orally, where you might remember one detail which reminds you of another and so on. Each time you tell the same story it evolves. The same thing happened as I was drawing; a scene of the river would evolve into a cup of hot pouring tea, usually unplanned.”

GlacierHub’s Tsechu Dolma who spoke with the filmmaker and provides a unique review of the short animation writes, “This is in direct contrast to how Western thrill-seekers usually present the Yarlung Tsangpo as “Everest of all rivers,” “liquid thunder,” and “monstrous and obscure.” We almost never hear or read about local perspectives on the sacredness and importance of the Yarlung Tsangpo.”

 Kunsang Kyirong’s story and film is a soothing fit to that vacuum.

2 Responses

  1. Hope you win, I really do.

    “monstrous and obscure.” lol Those irreverent ‘Western thrill-seekers’ have lot to answer for.

  2. Once it crosses into being Brahmaputra, there are plenty of stories revolving around the river. As a matter of fact, one of the first technicolor movies by the son of a famous painter revolves around this. The thrill-seeking aspect is however something that is a valid point to bring out. For some, mountains are meant to be climbed, for others, abode of sacred deities. So who of the many famous climbers, has had a sacred moment on top of a mountain while it’s being trampled?

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