The Lost World of Tibet: A Different View 2007
Distributed by Films Media Group, PO Box 2053, Princeton, New Jersey 08543-2053; 800-257-5126
Produced by Emma Hindley
Directed by Emma Hindley
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Area Studies, Tibet, Asian Studies
Date Entered: 10/29/2008Reviewed by Sheila Intner, Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Simmons College GSLIS at Mt. Holyoke, South Hadley, MA
The status of Tibet is a political dilemma: is it a sovereign nation or a province of the People’s Republic of China? Three United Nations resolutions addressing the issue have failed to resolve it. Now ruled by China and shielded by it from the outside world, a tiny band of expatriates led by an exiled leader look back at Tibet’s former glory and express hope for the future. This BBC/British Film Institute production uses archival footage from numerous sources, both professional and amateur, to help viewers understand the problems faced by Tibet through historical evidence of what transpired in the years before and immediately after World War II, up to the Chinese invasion in the 1950s.
Viewers see the current Dalai Lama—the 14th person to ascend to Tibet’s highest religious and political office—as a child and youth, and watch him succeed brilliantly in his “final exam”—a public religious debate that earned him his position as well as a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Shots of the little boy among members of his family and at play with his brother contrast with scenes of the young man in his role of revered religious ruler at the head of seemingly endless parades of followers, and, later, in interviews with the elderly man he is now.
The Tibetans who participated in preparing this film profoundly regret their nation’s loss of sovereignty, attributing it in part to naiveté stemming from their isolation from the rest of the world and ignorance of world events. They were completely unprepared to resist the takeover by the Chinese Communists under Mao Tse-tung. Preoccupation with their elaborate Buddhist religious traditions—the Tibetan calendar had 68 days set aside for religious festivals every year—consumed both the monks and politicians responsible for leading Tibet before the 1950s. Maintenance of a modern trained military force was never a priority in the tiny mountain nation. Unfortunately, no sooner did the Chinese conquer the country than they set about destroying Tibetan religious life and culture.
The Lost World of Tibet sheds light on the huge scale of religious life in the early 20th century and shows the dramatic differences in daily life between that country and the developed nations of the West. Viewers may not see enough to absorb the details of the celebrations it shows, but they can appreciate the all-encompassing level of participation they involved.
The technical quality of the film is as high as can be expected, given that many of the clips used were not well preserved. Interviews with the Dalai Lama and members of the former Tibetan political establishment are excellent, though in some passages their accented English is hard to understand. Still, there is so little material available showing this part of the world first-hand in modern times that this program is extremely valuable.