Notes for the UK Release of “Balloon”, Directed by Pema Tseden

I’m really excited that Pema Tseden’s film Balloon is (finally) receiving a UK wide release starting from TODAY! I’d heard so much about it and managed to somehow miss the one London screening that took place at the London East Asian Film Festival in November 2019 – almost two years ago!!

So I was thrilled to be asked to write the programme notes for the marketing pack that accompanies the film’s release via the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) initiative. Not only was I able to watch the film courtesy of the distributor Day for Night, I was able to, for the first time, really think about the themes and formulate some thoughts about a Pema Tseden film.

Here is the link to the Marketing Pack, including my Notes. And if you are in the UK you can look for a screening of this powerful film here: https://www.day-for-night.org/balloon

I haven’t managed to go to the cinema since Covid so I can’t wait to see this on the BIG SCREEN!

Online Panel: Tashi Wangchuk and How We Can Protect Tibetan Language

In anticipation of the release of Tashi Wangchuk from 5 years in prison for advocating for Tibetan language rights, I took part in this online panel discussion on 18 January 2021. For some reason you can’t see it on the video but Rinzin Choedon la and I had written our names in Tibetan on the screen – it’s showing as squares!

Thank you to International Tibet Network for inviting me to speak as well as to the fellow panelists.

Fortunately Tashi Wangchuk was released on 28 January but now faces 5 years of deprivation of political rights, the harshest length possible. Here is the link to the video of the panel: https://fb.watch/3sQd1sytrk/

Update 24 February 2021: I took part in an online discussion hosted by Tibet Action Institute last Friday on the topic of how we can protect Tibetan language rights, it was also International Mother Language Day this past Sunday so it was a good occasion for this event. Here is the link to the video: https://fb.watch/3QDc0DTsT1/

 

RFA Interview on smartvote Tibet

This year I’ve greatly enjoyed being part of a small group of committed Tibetans involved in the project smartvote Tibet.

Even though the Tibetan election details have only been announced relatively recently, our group has been busy getting ready for many months.

smartvote Tibet is a user-friendly online platform designed to help Tibetan voters to make an informed decision on election day. We’ve been collecting questions from the general public and will next enter the phase of launching the online platform – Chithue and Sikyong candidates will be asked to create their profiles so that they can answer 30 questions. The idea is that we will all then be able to create our own profiles and answer the same questions to get a match. I’m excited to see how this will go!

Another aspect of the project has been to gain feedback from the amazing Advisory Board members about the questions so that we have a representative selection in the final 30. I’ve participated in several calls and there’s always so much to discuss and think about.

On 1 September, my colleague Wangpo Tethong la and I were interviewed by Palden Gyal la of Radio Free Asia to talk about the smartvote Tibet project. I’m linking to the interview below. In the meantime please keep an eye on https://www.smartvote-tibet.org/english/ for exciting updates!

Support Tibetan Artists While Staying Home

For so many of us around the world, now is the time stay in but it doesn’t have to be boring or unproductive. We can all experience amazing culture and support Tibetan artists in the process!

I was recently refunded a bunch of theatre and events tickets and now that we’re facing weeks/months of isolation, it’s a good time to remind ourselves how much great art is being produced by Tibetans. I’m more than happy to re-direct the money to supporting Tibetan artists at this difficult time for them.

A lot of people forget that Tibetan artists are, more often than not, doing everything by themselves. How many Tibetan filmmakers, musicians, artists have agents, managers, assistants, producers or any kind of professional body of support? Very very few. How many Tibetan artists generously put their work online for free? Too many. This post is about how we can place value on our artistic community by GIVING THEM OUR MONEY.

So let’s start by watching the incredible Royal Café on demand and I’ll keep adding to this post as I come across other ways of giving Tibetan artists our money.

FILM

  1. ROYAL CAFE – £9.99 to buy, £4.99 to rent

MUSIC

  1. “Heartstrings” by Tenzin Choegyal – Album price is AUD 8
    https://tenzinchoegyal.bandcamp.com/releases

2. Tracks by Yesh – USD 0.99 each
https://yesh.bandcamp.com/
Amala: https://yesh.bandcamp.com/track/amala
Glass: https://yesh.bandcamp.com/track/glass
Surface: https://yesh.bandcamp.com/track/surface

3. Support “Drung” – A collective of Tibetan filmmakers based in Dharamsala

Donate to them here: http://drung.in/donate/

Join Us! Continuation of Writing Workshops for the UK Tibetan Community

Following on from the playwriting workshops held at the Royal Court Theatre last Autumn, our writers group have decided to carry on with writing workshops this spring. We’re excited to keep going with what we’ve started and are looking to expand the group. If you are a UK based Tibetan please join us, no previous writing experience necessary! All details in the announcement below, deadline for applications is 3rd February, 2020.

First Tibet Film Festival in London Took Place in November 2019!

After ten successful years in Zurich and Dharamsala, the Tibet Film Festival finally came to London in November 2019! It was my honour to co-organise the Tibet Film Festival in London along with Kunsang Kelden and an incredible team of volunteers.

Having attended the Dharamsala Film Festival in the past, we felt it was time for London to have two days completely dedicated to Tibetan filmmakers and Tibetan films. We were fortunate to have amazing venues for the two days, Deptford Cinema in Deptford, Deptford Does Art for the after party and artFix in Woolwich.

I’ll leave the photos on Instagram to speak for themselves. One thing we were proud to squeeze in as well was at the after party, we had participants from our Royal Court Playwriting Workshop read their pieces.

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers and also a special shout out to Tenzin Dasel and Pema Shitsetsang for being our main guests and for the unique work they do in our society.

Highlights from Day One:

Highlights from the after party:

Highlights from Day Two:

Introductions to the Festival:

Thank you to our team!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5B3hJyBfwL/

Playwriting Workshop for the UK Tibetan Community at the Royal Court Theatre

Tibetan-Workshop-Eflyer

Now is the time for aspiring Tibetan writers, poets, playwrights, artists or anyone interested in learning about storytelling to SIGN UP to this FREE workshop by 26th September!

There isn’t much I can add to the information already on the flyer above, the same information is on the Royal Court Theatre’s website: https://royalcourttheatre.com/what-else/participation/communities/playwriting-workshops/

Check out this fun promo video too!

Thank you to the Royal Court’s Lucy Morrison and to Carl Miller who will be leading the sessions. Can’t wait!

First Publication of Writings from High Peaks Pure Earth, Produced in Partnership with Tibet Relief Fund

Order the publication online here: http://bit.ly/HPPEbook

So thrilled to see this publication “Blossoming Broken Flowers: Selected Writings from High Peaks Pure Earth” in print, produced in partnership with the UK charity Tibet Relief Fund!

It’s been a pleasure to work together with the Tibet Relief Fund, can’t believe it’s been almost a year since they hosted the poetry event “We Were Made for Home” here in London. Even back then we’d been discussing putting a book together of writings from High Peaks Pure Earth and now we’ve done it!

The best part of doing this book is that Tibet Relief Fund will distribute free copies to Tibetan students in India and Nepal, making online writings more accessible and in particular, writings from Tibet. I’d like to offer my personal thanks to staff at Tibet Relief Fund both in UK and India for working hard on realising this project!

For a limited time, “Blossoming Broken Flowers: Selected Writings from High Peaks Pure Earth” is available for the special price of £4.99 (usual price £6.99) and can be ordered via the Tibet Relief Fund’s online shop: http://bit.ly/HPPEbook

A Joint Review of the Play “Pah-La” by Abhishek Majumdar

Tibetan Review has kindly published a joint review that I wrote along with four other UK based Tibetans, Sonam Anjatsang, Georgina Choekyi Doji, Kunsang Kelden and Tenzing Zega.

The back story to the play “Pah-La”, currently running at London’s Royal Court Theatre until 27 April, is quite long and convoluted so I won’t go into everything here. What started as concerns about the lack of Tibetans in the cast gave way to addressing larger issues about the actual content of the play. I didn’t write about the casting debacle as I didn’t feel like I had anything to add to my previous article about the 2016 play “Shangri-La”.

With this review of “Pah-La” I feel so honoured and privileged to have had four fiercely smart and passionate co-authors who were very generous with their time and with sharing their thoughts. We all want plays and stories about Tibet to succeed but with “Pah-La” something didn’t feel right so this review is the result of our many discussions.

Our stories are being told by others but talking back is the one power we can exercise.

Please read our review on Tibetan Review here: http://www.tibetanreview.net/pah-la-a-shallow-and-confusing-examination-of-tibetan-non-violent-resistance/

 

Drop Dragonfly Press Conference

I was happy to take part in an online press conference yesterday on Human Rights Day talking about the situation on the ground for Tibetans inside Tibet and the PRC in terms of using the internet and social media.

Here is the link to the full video, thank you to Mandie and International Tibet Network for having me on this great panel. Follow the campaign to get Google to drop Project Dragonfly here: https://stopgooglecensorship.online/