In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet. Nine years later the
Chinese occupation brutally suppressed the Tibetan people’s resistance
movement, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee for his life to India. Over
100,000 of his people followed him across the treacherous Himalayas, and
thousands of refugees every year are still risking their lives, as gross abuse of human rights and ecological devastation continue
in Tibet unchecked. In fact, the Tibet issue has been in a deadlock: The Chinese government
continues to refuse the dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The international communities including the
United Nation never seriously face China as the communist country is becoming a superpower
politically and economically. On the other hand, over the border in
Dharamsala, India, home of the Tibetan Government in Exile, a new
Tibetan generation has been born into a foreign land. Nonetheless
their dedication to their homeland remains a daily reality with the passion of its elders who escaped
from Tibet. The 40th anniversary of the Lhasa uprising is marked by love and struggle as the
refugees unite across the generations in their devotion to the rooftop of the world, Tibet…
TIBETAN REFUGEES: A Struggle Beyond Generations documents the cry for freedom of Tibet in exile.
“More than fifty years have passed since the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, a Nobel laureate, was forced to flee his homeland. Yet Free Tibet remains a living struggle for his people.”
* This documentary is composed of 4 chapters:
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION
History of Tibet, including China’s invasion, annexation, and occupation of Tibet; and Tibetan refugee communities.
Chapter 2: THE YOUTHS’ STRUGGLE
Overview of activity of the Tibetan YouthCongress. Profiles of two young refugees born and raised in exile.
Chapter 3: THE OLDER GENERATION’S EXPECTATION
Elders’ messages to younger generations of Tibetans about the Free Tibet struggle.
Actions, conclusions, and hopes of the Dalai Lama and other refugees working for a Free Tibet
*Here are the main characters of this film:
PRODUCED BY Tensystem Inc. DIRECTOR: TANAKA Kunihiko EDITOR: TANAKA Kunihiko
PHOTOGRAPHY: TANAKA Kunihiko NARRATOR: David Schaufele
SCRIPT: TANAKA Kunihiko / Evan Heimlich /Faith Bach
MUSIC: TAKIMOTO Hiroko / TIPA SPECIAL ADVISER: Jurme Wangda / SASAKI Manabu
PUBLIC RELATIONS: Himalaya Archive Japan
Running Time: 120 Minutes Production Year: 2002
Untold Story behind the Production
Since he became interested in the Tibet issue in 1987, TANAKA Kunihiko, its film director, has reviewed many documentaries and programs about Tibetan refugees, and found they tend to portray the refugees as 1) poor people escaping from Tibet because of the Chinese oppression, and/or 2) naive and religious people following the Dalai Lama. The majority of the works on the Tibet issue, moreover, focus exclusively on the Dalai Lama’s activities, and reinforce audiences’ “Shangri-la” stereotypes about Tibet and its refugees. So, this first documentary of the Tibetan Refugee Documentary Project intentionally and specifically focuses on the challenges
faced by Tibetan refugees especially the youths, describing their “ true faces”. After finishing a gra-duate degree in journalism and mass communication in the US, Tanaka went back to Japan and started to ask several media (TV) production companies to work with his project. However, they declined to support it. The main reason was really obvious. The Tibet issue has been taboo in the Japanese mass media. One boss of a company said, “We can’t touch the Tibet issue.” Companies fear that the Chinese government’s reaction would cause trouble for their business. Yet Tanaka never thought about giving up. The important year 1999 was drawing near: the 40th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising; 50th anniversary of China’s invasion and annexation of Tibet; 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown; and the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Dalai Lama. Someone had to record what ordinary Tibetans would say and do in that important year. Camerawork for the first documentary began in February 1999, and proceeded very well as Tanaka established excellent rapport with Tibetan refugees he met. Before the start of the peace march on the anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, the Dalai Lama made a speech in Dharamsala. Of the many journalists who covered the speech, only Tanaka, with his camera, accompanied the peace march it launched. The PM was truly meaningful because it was the first big march which ordinary Tibetan refugees, who used to mainly follow the Dalai Lama and the exile government, took the initiative in organizing. Tanaka also secured an exclusive, one-hour interview in Dharamsala with the Dalai Lama, excerpts of which are in the documentary. That interview with the “Living Buddha” took place on Buddha Jayanti, Buddha’s birthday. Some Tibetan Buddhist must say, “It’s your karma!”.