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/

 

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/

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/

 

“We Were Made for Home” – Poetry Event in London on 5 September 2018

we were made for home speakers

This year has flown by without my managing to blog here too much. In May I spoke about Tibetans and our special relationship with Apple at RightsCon 2018 in Toronto in May  and the following month I was beamed into a UN Side Event in Geneva by the International Service for Human Rights to give an overview of freedom of expression in Tibet. A personal favourite speaking engagement of mine though was in July when I gave a talk called “Adventures in Tibetan Social Media” to the YTEC Youth Camp just outside London.

That brings me to “We Were Made for Home”, a poetry evening on Wednesday at Burley Fisher Books in East London. I’m really looking forward to talking about my work with High Peaks Pure Earth and also being in the company of young Tibetan writers and scholars. It’s not often we get Tibetan poetry nights in London so a huge thank you to Tibet Relief Fund for hosting and putting everything together!

Please join us on Wednesday if you can, the Facebook Event Page is here for all the details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2185528025060845/

FLY by ANU gets a video remix

Everyone knows FLY (Phur) by ANU and the accompanying video from last year. The other day on WeChat I came across this amazing new, and I’m assuming unofficial, video for it that seems to be promoting Yushu, where the ANU guys hail from.

I’m sharing the video here because I love it so much and hope you enjoy it too! Have a great summer!

Speaking to the BBC about Dhondup Wangchen’s Arrival in USA

It’s been heartwarming to see all the positive responses from all around the world to the news that Dhondup Wangchen arrived safely in the US on Christmas Day. Dhondup Wangchen’s escape from Tibet has been a rare piece of good news!

There has been strong media coverage of Dhondup Wangchen’s story that started with our Filming for Tibet press statement on 27 December. There have been news reports on New York Times, Reuters, Guardian, amongst many others.

Yesterday I was invited to speak with Sharanjit Leyl on BBC World News during the 8pm news, the video is above!

After the news of Dhondup Wangchen’s arrival came out, there were statements welcoming him from many organisations who had worked on his campaign. Thank you to Amnesty International, Dui Hua Foundation, International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet. Also the President of the Tibetan Government in Exile, Dr. Lobsang Sangay praised Dhondup Wangchen for his “courage and contribution to the cause of Tibet.”

 

Similarly, many took to Twitter including Nancy Pelosi and the Committee to Protect Journalists:

This is all so amazing and quite surreal, considering it’s been ten years since Dhondup Wangchen started filming “Leaving Fear Behind” –  what a journey.

For those who want to go back and watch “Leaving Fear Behind”, it’s online here: https://vimeo.com/50220285

To read about the day I spent with Dhondup Wangchen on 10 March, 2008, read my piece for CPJ here: https://cpj.org/blog/2009/12/the-story-of-dhondup-wangchen-a-filmmaker-jailed-i.php

Happy new year and see you in 2018!

 

My Interview with John Billington for LondonNey

It was my absolute pleasure to interview John Billington for LondonNey about his lifelong engagement for Tibet. John, or “Uncle John” as he’s known in my family, was kind enough to come all the way from his home in Wales to spend the best part of an afternoon with us in London on a Saturday last month.

The full interview on YouTube is embedded at the top of this post and above are some other photos from the day.

A huge thank you of course to Uncle John but also to the entire LondonNey crew who worked extremely hard to make sure the filming on the day went smoothly. We had a productive day but it was also a lot of fun, with plenty to talk about and also to eat and drink!

New for HuffPo – “Madame D: A Cautionary Tale of Language and Duck Momos”

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Ever since I saw the new restaurant Madame D’s description on Twitter, it bothered me that they described their food as an interpretation of the food prepared by “Chinese-Tibetan immigrants in India”.

The issue I take with this term is elaborated on over on my HuffPo page: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59536635e4b0326c0a8d0c6b

Please have a read and share!