Dreaming Lhasa DVD Review
by Kam Williams
Exiled Tibetan Searches for Roots in Road Flick Arriving on DVD
Karma (Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso), a Tibetan-American filmmaker from New York, decides to travel to the Dalai Lama's headquarters in India to reconnect with her roots while making a documentary about former political prisoners. Accompanied by her young local assistant Jigme (Tenzin Jigme), who would love to relocate to the U.S., she negotiates her way around the refugee-filled city of Dharamsala.
There, she finds herself, first, intrigued by and, then, attracted to the recently-arrived Dhonup (Jampa Kalsang), a man on a mission to fulfill his dying mother's last wish to deliver a charm box containing a cyanide pill to a long-lost friend of hers. Karma chooses to join the unorthodox ex-monk on his quest, and a triangle of sorts eventually ensues, with jealous Jigme warning her that Dhonup might only be interested in her for a Green Card marriage.
This is the essence of Dreaming Lhasa, a surprisingly-engaging, semi-autobiographical docudrama written and directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, the latter the son of Tibetan emigres. While the movie must have served as sojourn of self-discovery for Mr. Sonam, it simultaneously offers any audience a refreshingly realistic peek into the plight of his displaced people. A warts-and-all characterization which cuts a sharp contrast to the prevailing popular image of Tibet as disembodied, as disseminated by the saintly Dalai Lama.
Excellent (4 stars)
In Tibetan and English with subtitles.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: First Run Features
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, "The Making of" featurette, film notes by Human Rights Watch, interview with directors, and a short film entitled "Rights and Wrongs."
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