“Dreaming Lhasa” takes places in Dharamsala, the Indian city which is home to Tibet’s government in exile. We never get to say “Hello, Dalai Lama!” in this film, but instead we focus on a trio of unlikely Tibetan exiles: an Americanized Tibetan filmmaker, a would-be rocker and a former monk trying to track down a former Tibetan resistance fighter in order to return a charm box which belongs to the elusive man.
Documentary filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, making their first narrative feature, only display the strengths of the non-fiction genre (a strong sense of location, real-life interviews with exiled Tibetans who withstood the imprisonment and torture of the Communist Chinese occupation force). Their narrative skills are wobbly and often amateurish: the plot is wispy, the acting (mostly by non-professionals) is timid and the direction is so leisurely that it is easy to doze off at various points of the film. It is among the dullest and least confident movies to unspool this year.
The Chinese government reportedly pressured several major festivals not to show “Dreaming Lhasa.” Actually, those nasty Commies would’ve done themselves a favor by not calling attention to the film at all – it is such a minor and forgettable bore that few people would’ve bothered to notice it.
As a Tibetan, Dreaming Lhasa was a beautiful and amazing story about the very real state of Tibetans in exile. It was an excellent first feature film for both the directors, and the story and script were both interesting and gripping. The only thing that I feel let down the movie was the amateur acting, but this was understandable, seeing as it must have been difficult to find actors to fit the characters in the movie.
All in all, I think it was a wonderful and vital movie for the Tibetan cause, and all the Tibetans in exile all around the world!