echo from Tibet
By Norman Shoaf City Editor,
Antelope Valley Press Southern California
and the Chocolate Factory," "Wedding Crashers," "Fantastic
Four" and other blockbusters burning up the box office this summer, I will
let you in on a little secret: "Voices in Exile," which chronicles
the struggle of the Tibetan people for their culture and for their very lives,
is the most important film you can see this year. Since 1949,
when China invaded Tibet, Chinese policies have caused the deaths of 1.2 million
Tibetans -one-sixth of the population -through execution, imprisonment, starvation
and forced labor.
Tibetans have risked their lives to leave their country and set up a community
in exile under the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet for India in 1959.
in Exile" was directed, edited and narrated by Tenzin Wangden Andrugtsang,
who served as a secretary in the Dalai Lama's office, under the auspices of
the Tibetan Photo Project.Joe Mickey,
a Northern California photographer and all-around good guy, found his calling
about five years ago in encouraging exiled Tibetans to use donated, disposable
cameras to capture glimpses of their lives; he then published the photos in
every way his "begging bowl" budget allowed, on the Web, at galleries
and elsewhere. Mickey has
exhibited his growing stock of recent images, plus donated collections of vintage
photos of Tibet from decades past, around the United States, including a stunning
show earlier this year at Antioch University in Los Angeles. You can
easily linger for quite some time over the rich variety of intimate views of
Tibetan life in exile at www.tibetanphotoproject.com. Mickey got
a professional movie camera into the hands of Wangden, who set out to capture
the history and current progress of Tibet's struggle on film.The result
is a mini-masterpiece that should move anyone with an interest in history, sociology,
international events, religion (Tibetan Buddhism informs so much of the refugees'
purpose and motivation) or basic human experience.
persons can scarce come away from viewing "Voices in Exile" without
being deeply affected.
frankly details China's rape of Tibet, though most of its images are suitable
for all but the youngest children. But the heart of the film centers around
interviews with the exiled Tibetans themselves.They debate
their place and purpose in the world; they appreciate help from other nations
but disparage patronization; they wrestle with the conflict between Buddhism's
path of nonviolent resistance and ongoing, unchecked Chinese brutality."Voices"
enjoyed its world premiere recently at Centenary College in Shreveport, La.,
where Wangden and Mickey met face to face for the first time. Mickey told me
the first question they heard from viewers was, "Why haven't we been told
about what China has done to Tibet? This is terrible." "That's
when we knew we were making progress," Mickey said of the film and of the
efforts of the Tibetan Photo Project.As the exhibition
of photos was about to close in Shreveport, Mickey offered the collection to
other venues. A display would certainly put any gallery on the international
map. I let the folks at Antelope Valley College know that the photos were available,
basically for the asking, but heard nothing back. Not enough interest in our
community, I guess.On July
8, "Voices in Exile" opened the National Tibetan Film Festival at
the world-class Australian Center for the Moving Image in Melbourne. Australian
senator Lyn Allison noted: "This is an interesting time in Australia's
relations with China but, disappointingly, there is little evidence that human
rights abuses in Tibet have been raised in our talks on a free-trade agreement ...Tibetans
are still being imprisoned and exploited, and there is little sign that China
will even consider the autonomy offer put up by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama."How long,
one wonders, will Uncle Sam continue to cozy up to China's rapacious dictators
in the face of their continued atrocities?"The
West has a great deal to learn from the experience of the Tibetan community,"
Mickey said. "The perspective provided from the modern history of Tibet
and China reveals a great deal about the nature of China's future leadership.""The
lessons have become even more relevant with the rise to power of Hu Jintao,
China's former hard-line secretary to Tibet."
in Exile," Mickey said, "It is crucial to the survival of the Tibetan
culture that the Tibetans find new ways to keep telling the world about their
tragedy, and this effort, in some small way, hopes to add to the continuation
of the voice from the Tibetans."
**See Norman's new book release: "Random Epiphanies"**
Santa Rosa Press Democarat
Friday, November 4, 2005
FILM: Raven fades to black with indie double feature
By JOHN BECK
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Art houses and smaller theaters live and die by
obscure documentaries, no-budget character studies and
foreign cinema. This weekend, two such films - one
about the struggle of Tibet, the other a history of
the ukulele - will project what may be the final
flickering images at the Raven Film Center and the end
of cinema in Healdsburg.
Booked months before the Raven announced it would
close Halloween night, Saturday's special screening by
two Fort Bragg filmmakers is purely an accidental
coda. But it's somehow fitting that an indie double
bill will close out a theater lost to an age of
stadium seating and THX sound.
"I think there will always be a place for independent
films, but it may be harder to find screens," said
Fort Bragg producer Joe Mickey, who bankrolled "Voices
in Exile" for $8,000 out of his own pocket.
A rare Tibetan film created by a Tibetan instead of a
Western outsider, "Voices in Exile" paints an
endearing portrait of a refugee community that still
dreams of returning home.
"You shoot the film you want," Mickey told first-time
filmmaker Tenzin Wangden Andrugtsang, a former
secretary to the secretary of the Dalai Lama. "We ask
for absolutely nothing."
Five years ago, when Mickey co-founded the Tibetan
Photo Project, www.tibetanphotoproject.com, he started
with a collection of crude still photos taken by
disposable cameras donated by Kodak. Enrolled in an
adopt-a-monk program, he began swapping photos with
his Tibetan pen pal. But when he sent the first
camera, his new friend was a little confused: "With no
culture based on photography I have no idea what you
want me to shoot," he told Mickey.
But after exchanging several rolls of film, vibrant
photos of daily life in Dharamsala, the northern
Indian city many Tibetans now call home as a result of
the Chinese occupation of their country, began to
arrive. A natural evolution of the project, "Voices in
Exile" combines archival war footage and historical
stills with modern interviews with students, teachers,
artists and religious leaders to show a Tibetan
culture rooted in the past with an eye on the future.
Footage of ancient wood carving is juxtaposed with
sound bites from an uberhip organizer (dig the Bono
glasses and denim jacket) of the annual Miss Tibet
beauty pageant. Even if talking heads dominate the
aesthetic, the documentary unfolds as a series of
postcards from Tibet – an amazing feat when you
consider Wangden edited the film on Apple's basic
Prior to "Voices in Exile," fellow Fort Bragg
filmmaker and luthier Paul Kraus will screen his new
documentary "The Jumping Flea," a celebration of all
things ukulele, from its Portuguese roots to its
Hawaiian heyday and musician Tiny Tim's high-pitched
campaign as tiptoeing ambassador.
And while, Raven Film Center Manager John Holt holds
out hope that the theater will reopen under a new
business plan, he doesn't yet know how it will happen.
The Tibetan Photo Project Presents "Voices in Exile"
By Sita Stuhlmiller
Light of Consciousness - Winter, 2005DIRECTED, FILMED, EDITED AND NARRATED BY TENZIN WANGDEN ANDRUGTSANGEXECUTIVE PRODUCER: JOE MICKEY; ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: SAZZY VARGA
IT BEGAN WITH A VERY SIMPLE IDEA: put cameras in the hands of Tibetans to encourage them to preserve their own culture on film. About five years ago Joe Mickey, a photographer of over 30 years, sent disposable cameras to monks at Drepung Monastery in South India, with whom he had been corresponding, The returned film revealed what Mickey called, "a magical view into another world. More importantly, the view was not being provided by an outsider looking in . . . " Thus the Tibetan Photo Project came into being. Soon galleries and publishers around the country began displaying this unique view of Tibetans in exile, including a photo essay in the spring/summer 2004 issue of Light of Consciousness.
Fast forward to 2004 when Mickey got a professional movie camera into the hands of Wangden Andrugtsang, a secretary at the office of the Dalai Lama. As Wangden began to learn the process of directing, cinematography and editing, Voices In Exile gradually took form. Holding true to the spirit of the Project, Mickey explained: "We did not want any Western interference with the content of the film. It was important that Voices In Exile was 110 percent Wangden's design." As the film opens, Wangden narrates a short history of Tibet, with drawings, photographs and archival footage of the first rulers, the lineage of the Dalai Lama, the events leading up to the Chinese invasion in 1949, which brought about the death of 1.2 million Tibetans (1/6 of the population), and the flight of the 14th Dalai Lama into exile in India in 1959 followed by 100,000 Tibetans. Today the number of Tibetans living in exile around the world is estimated to be as high as 150,000.
After this introduction, Voices in Exile moves to current day scenes in Dharamsala in north India, home of the Dalai Lama since four decades and headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile. Much of the film is occupied with interviews with teachers, shopkeepers, students, artists, the President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, a woman recently arrived from Tibet and others "particularly the younger generations born in exile" giving insights into the struggle of modern Tibetans living in India. Their thoughts and dreams and the reality of achieving autonomy after decades of Chinese occupation give us a glimpse into the varied viewpoints among the Tibetan diaspora. The question of whether to continue the non-violent movement, the "middle path" advocated by the Dalai Lama, is addressed by several of them with candor. The subject of help from the world community, particularly from the West, is also discussed as well as the future of the Tibetan community, particularly the education of children and preservation of their culture and arts.
Tibetans in Tibet are still being imprisoned, exploited and denied basic human rights and the United Nations Child Rights Body is increasing pressure on China to allow access to the 16-year-old Panchen Lama of Tibet, who was abducted with his parents in 1995. With China's political and economic prominence in the world today, it is not likely to relent its policies designed to complete the cultural genocide of the Tibetan people. This film, "made on a begging bowl budget," is a heartfelt and enlightening appeal to the world to honor the Tibetan freedom struggle.
Partially funded by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, Voices In Exile running time is 1 hour 5 minutes. Available on DVD for $29.95 postpaid at www.tibetanphotoproject.com
images are Copyright 2000-2014, Joe Mickey, Sazzy Varga and the Tibetan Photo
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* *We have receintly incorporated and are filing for Non Profit Status as: Camera's for Culture Inc. The Tibetan Photo Project will operate under this umbrella. We will let you know as soon as donations are tax deductible. **