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Film Review Archive


Cry 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 word.

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 homeland.

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.