‘Tibet in Song’: One Man’s Melody of Courage

‘Tibet in Song’ is an upcoming film by Ngawang Choephel which has already been doing the rounds of film festivals around the world, and won the Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. I met Choephel at last year’s Sikh Gala at Cipriani and was immediately mesmerized by his touching story.

You see, to Choephel, ‘Tibet in Song’ is more than just a documentary. It is the story of his life, his incarceration in Tibet following a trip there to re-discover his musical roots and record the country’s rich music culture for generations to come. And by generations to come I mean those born away from the Chinese occupied Tibet or even the youth inside Tibet, currently subjected to the constant brainwashing of the Chinese culture insidiously passing as their country’s own.

But perhaps most importantly, ‘Tibet in Song’ is Choephel’s love song to his own mother, who protested his jail sentence throughout the nearly seven years -- from 1995 to 2002 -- when he was jailed by the Chinese authorities on charges of being a spy. His mother Sonam Dekyi championed his cause, holding vigils outside the Chinese Embassy in Delhi to get a visa to visit her son in jail, organizing rallies through Amnesty International and getting politicians and celebrities alike to join in the appeal. Her voice was heard from Delhi to Washington to Beijing and finally got Choephel released on the 20th of January 2002, on medical parole.

I have to admit that it is typically the impartial viewpoint of documentaries which appeal to me so much. With ‘Tibet in Song’, that aspect of the genre is done away with, since the film is a very personal journey into Choephel’s own hell. One can’t help but see the film through his own viewpoint, even if we know deep inside that, as is always the case in life, there are so many sides to the story. But his calm demeanor throughout the film, his gentle voice narrating the story and the testimony of so many others victims of this human rights disaster make the documentary a living testament to the resilience and courage of the people of Tibet.

‘Tibet in Song’ is a visually stunning, emotionally wrenching and culturally important film all should see at least once. It will be shown in NYC at Cinema Village -- on East 12th street -- starting September 24th. But don’t worry, I’ll remind you again when we get closer to the date… In the meanwhile, spread the word, on Facebook, Twitter and to the winds!

Images by David Huang, Ngawang Choephel by Jayd Gardina

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4 Responses to “‘Tibet in Song’: One Man’s Melody of Courage”

  1. ivan:

    Hello Nina,

    Thanks for this. I’ll keep an eye out for it if it makes it to New Mexico.

    This posting reminded me of a wonderful narrative film I saw a couple years ago titled ‘Travellers and Magicians’. A terrific film which I believe was the first film done in Bhutan.


    (the big fan of ‘Sita…’ in NM)

  2. Nina:

    Thank you for you comment Ivan, and your suggestion I put it on my list of must-see! All the best to you!

  3. Dhiren Pania:

    It was nice to know about songs in Tibet.
    In India From where can I get CD of Songs of Tibet(sung by local artist).
    can you give some address.
    regards dhiren

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