Of The Snow Lion
Reviewed by Helen Meservey
It takes a measure of courage to even go see films like Tibet:
Cry of the Snow Lion. Both grueling and beautiful, Cry of the
Snow Lion is a feature-length documentary that is so expertly
knit together and so provocative in its content that it practically
compels you out of your seat and into the street to spread the
The word, of course, if freedom, and the freedom quite obviously
is for Tibet, for its culture and its people, who have withered
for half a century under a campaign of brutal repression by
the government of China, its neighbor to the north.
A 100-minute film that took director and producer Tom Peosay
10 years to make, Cry of the Snow Lion is plainly biased. It
would be fair to say the film demonizes China, especially its
government and its army, but itís difficult to watch
the beating and torture of robed Buddhist monks and nuns without
having to cede some agreement. The irony is stultifying: The
very essence of Tibetan Buddhism is nonviolence and compassionócompassion
for all beings, including those who might kill you.
A veritable anthem for Tibet, the film nonetheless does incorporate
comments from the Chinese governmentóincluding remarks
from a spokesman that the Dalai Lama himself is spreading disinformation
throughout the world about the state of affairs in his Himalayan
The filmmakers also enlist the talents of Martin Sheen, who
narrates, along with Susan Sarandon, Ed Harris, Tim Robbins
and others, who provide voiceover translation for the many interviews
with Buddhist nuns, monks, and Tibetan dissidents. Even with
such star power, this is not the kind of movie that delivers
entertainment. In fact, without ever beseeching, Cry of the
Snow Lion inspires action. It is packed with more shocking images
and cold hard facts than you can retain. But the final, lingering
truth is that the home of perhaps the most spiritual culture
in the world is being annihilated. And in this global village
in which we live, itís hard to get around the idea that
we ourselves are financing this tragedy.
That ís the biggest reason films of The Terminator variety
rake in millions at the box office and a heartbreaking expose
of the rape of Tibet can still come off as breaking news. The
Terminator, as we in California surely know, comes out on top,
guaranteed. It doesnít look so good for the Tibetansónot
unless you share Beijingís position that Tibet is and
always has been part of China, and that the radical economic
and cultural impact of relocated immigrants from Central China
to Tibet can bring only comfort, prosperity and liberationócomfort,
prosperity and liberation to a people who had lived in peaceful
isolation for centuries.
Very much in the spirit of the Buddhist precept of compassion,
Cry of the Snow Lion projects the voices of a people who want
nothing more than religious freedom and social and cultural
autonomy. They want to be able, for example, to possess a photograph
of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and therefore national leader
of Tibet, without fearing criminal prosecution. They do not,
by and large, want revenge. It is not the Tibetan way.
A buffer between the two most populous nations in the
world "India and China, which both possess nuclear
weapons" Tibet might seem like the last hope for the planet.
It almost makes sense: take a people who put prayer and enlightenment
at the top of their lives, put them on the very top of the planet,
and then see what humanity will do to save itself. Thatís
what they mean when they say, Free Tibet.
For KUSP, this is Helen Meservey.