Review DVD: Tibet – Cry of the Snow Lion (2003)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Liberation through Knowledge: Absorbing,

January 15, 2005
Shirley Knight
Edit of 20 Dec 07 to add other significant DVDs.

Halfway through this probing, sensitive, sharp, spiritual documentary film I thought to myself, “wow, this is what CIA covert propaganda *should* be able to produce” and then instantly corrected myself: David Ignatius of the Washington Post has it right: overt action is vastly superior to covert action, and in this instance, a loose coalition of kindred spirits have come together in time and focus to produce something remarkable, something much more threatening to Chinese behavior in Tibet than any military armada: a collage of truth-telling.

This is a world-class documentary, full of vivid images, well-blended historical and modern footage, and extremely good production planning and voice over editing. Early on I was struck by the similarity between the Tibetans, the Native Americans, and the Guatemalan Indians, all of whom share some basic moral precepts.

The portrait painted of Tibet as a nation committed to the concept of spiritual education, is a compelling one. One analogy offered up by one of those interviewed I found especially compelling: Tibet was spending 85% of its budget on spiritual development, with 10% of its population in monasteries–this being the equivalent of America redirecting its entire defense budget toward education.

The documentary will clearly infuriate the Chinese, for it carefully itemizes the many ways in which Tibet is uniquely Tibetan, including in its language, greatly distant from Chinese. Shown are Chinese torture instruments, including electrical cattle prods used in the vaginas of nuns and the mouths and throats of monks. The photographs are graphic.

Also covered are the genocide, the torture, imposed by the Chinese, as well as the loss of morality–625 brothels to serve the Chinese garrison.

The documentary carefully covered the death of 30 million Chinese and half the Tibetan population that resulted from Mao Tse Tung’s order that Tibet grow wheat instead of barley–shades of the Soviet Union and its failed socialist agriculture.

6,200 monasteries destroyed–as one Tibetan government official in exile notes, this is not just places of worship, but places of scholarship and cradles of a specific civilization.

A section of the documentary focuses on CIA training of the Tibetan resistance, the conclusion of the Tibetans themselves that CIA was not serious, only providing enough support to enable harassment but not victory, and then the coup de grace–Henry Kissinger selling Tibet out for the sake of engagement.

A very powerful section points out that the US, with its 89 billion dollar a year trade imbalance with China, is in fact subsidizing Chinese repression and genocide, not only against Tibet, but against Muslims in China and other separatists elements. US business, according to this documentary, has sold democracy out in favor of profit.

As the documentary drew to an end, I found myself asking again: is this CIA propaganda, as the Chinese would have us believe? Or is the Dalai Lama is fact the representative of a group that may well be the soul of the world, a kernel of hope for non-violent resolution to all that ails us? I found myself wishing that we did indeed have a more effective People’s Intelligence Agency (PIA), one that I could trust, one that we could all trust, to actually get the facts right, without political, economic, or cultural manipulation and distortion.

I was educated by this documentary. I had never really thought about Tibet as other than a spiritual oddity. This documentary very effectively points out that it can and should be a zone of peace, not least because it is situated between China and India, two of the most populous nations on earth, between them holding one half of the earth’s population, and both of them nuclear *and* poor.

The documentary ends on a high note. It explicitly calls for liberation through knowledge and compassion, and one educator is very effective in pointing out that no one expected apartheid to end in South Africa, or the Berlin Wall to fall, yet both came to pass. Tibet, by this telling, is next.

This is an eye-opening, intelligent, visually-stimulating, and spiritually unnerving documentary. These people–both the observers and the observed–have served us all well.

See also, with reviews:
Peace One Day
The Snow Walker
Lord of War (2-Disc Special Edition)
Syriana (Full Screen Edition)

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