Films: Fire Under the Snow

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Fire Under the Snow

Fire Under the Snow

USA, 2008, 75 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Japan
Genre/Subjects: Asian, Documentary, Religion
Program: Documentary Films
Language: English, Tibetan English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Makoto Sasa
Producer: Jim Browne, Link Maguire, Vladan Nikolic, Makoto Sasa
Editor: Milica Zec
Screenwriter: Makoto Sasa, Aaron Mendez
Cinematographer: Vladimir Subotic

Palden Gyatso was still a young man when the Chinese Communist Army invaded Tibet in 1959. A Buddhist monk who had entered the monastery at age ten, Palden watched in horror as his country became a battleground and his spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was forced to flee to India. Thus, like many of his fellow initiates, Palden took to the streets to join the protests that were springing up all over Lhasa. It became the first step in a journey that would span decades and that continues even today. Arrested for demonstrating against the Chinese occupation, Palden spent thirty-three years in various prisons and labor camps, where he was brutally tortured, starved, and subjected to hard labor—even as his cultural identity was systematically dismantled and his friends, family, and teachers were either put to death or sent into exile. But through it all, his faith in the teachings of Buddhism and his dream of being reunited with His Holiness kept him going. When the Chinese finally released him from prison in 1992, Palden fled Tibet, walking for twenty days across the Himalayas to reach Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Dalai Lama’s government in exile.

But his story doesn’t end there. For the last sixteen years Palden, now in his seventies, has continued his struggle to call the world’s attention to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, most recently by staging a hunger strike at the 2006 Olympics in Turin to protest Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 games. In Fire Under the Snow, her first feature documentary, Tokyo-born filmmaker Makoto Sasa relates the extraordinary saga of a man who has sacrificed everything for his country and his faith—one that ultimately encapsulates the tragic history of Tibet.

Sponsor:

Asian Art Coordinating Council

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