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CIMM Fest: Tibet In Song

By Jake Guidry in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 5, 2010 10:20PM

2010_03_05_tibetinsong.jpg This is part of Chicagoist's coverage of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival, which runs March 4-7.

When Tibet In Song first begins rolling, you may be a bit confused. You may wonder to yourself, Well, hey, this looks a bit dated. Where's the mega-super-high-definition? Where's the Dolby Digital Dynamite Audio? In fact, you'd be right -- Tibet In Song actually began filming about fifteen years ago in 1995, but when director/producer Ngawang Choephel became a political prisoner for said filming, the process slowed to an unfortunate, screeching halt. His imprisonment incited significant outrage, starting from his own mother and stretching all the way to the Western World and United States politicians. Through much protest, Choephel was released in 2002, six years into his eighteen year sentence. From that point there was only one logical thing to do: finish the film.

Tibet In Song was finally released in 2009 and recounts the fading tradition in Tibetan folk music as a result of Chinese repression. What was once a rich musical tradition has dwindled into very few Tibetans actually knowing what it is. Years of Communist/Chinese-pop/Tibetan hybrid music has been forced down the throats of Tibetans, who've become conditioned to identify with something they have no reason to identify with. Choephel relentlessly films Tibet in all its diversity, dedicated to showing us true Tibetan music, in the process unraveling the tightly-wound grip China has had over the region since the late 1950s. In these last fifty years, Tibet has struggled significantly with maintaining its cultural traditions, and Choephel goes to great lengths, risking his own freedom, to tell the rest of the world about the atrocity of it all. We've all heard "Free Tibet", but Choephel puts a much needed face on the situation and says, This is why you should care. What results is a moving exploration into the rich Tibetan people and their heartbreaking struggle to maintain their own identity.

Tibet In Song screens (w/ Q&A) at Chicago Cultural Center on March 6 at 7:00 p.m.