Chinese directors withdraw from US festival over Tibet film

Chinese directors withdraw from US festival over Tibet film

Tibetan spiritual leader The Dalai Lama gestures during the fourth day of a teaching session at The Kalachakra Ground near The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya on Friday. AFP

The directors announced their decision to withdraw from the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) after the organisers refused to entertain the request of the Chinese government to cancel the screening of 'The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom'.

The 79-minute documentary by India's Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, a Tibetan exile, looks at the current situation in Tibet. It follows the Dalai Lama's trials and tribulations over an eventful year, including the 2008 protests in Tibet, the Beijing Olympics and the breakdown of talks with China.

The two Chinese films pulled out from the festival are 'City of Life and Death' and 'Quick, Quick, Slow'.

"After meeting with representatives from the Chinese government regarding their request to cancel our screenings of 'The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom', we have respectfully declined their request," Festival Director Darryl Macdoland in a statement.

"I am saddened that the Chinese film authorities have chosen to withdraw their films from PSIFF, as the festival is an international cultural event whose mandate is to present a wide cross section of perspectives and points of view," Macdonald said.
"That said, we cannot allow the concerns of one country or community to dictate what films we should or should not play, based on their own cultural or political perspective."

He said freedom of expression is a concept that is integral both to the validity of artistic events and ethos of the country. 'The Sun Behind the Clouds..' is scheduled for its North America premier at the festival on January 10.

This year's festival, which is celebrating its 21st anniversary, will include over 180 films from approximately 70 countries.

Meanwhile, local 'The Desert Sun' newspaper said the Chinese Cultural Attache and other Chinese officials called the festival director and film programmers demanding that they withdraw the documentary about Tibet and the Dalai Lama by the husband and wife team.

This is not the first time that the Chinese government has tried to exert pressure at an international film festival, claimed International Campaign for Tibet in a statement.

In July Chinese hackers attacked the website of Australia's biggest film festival over its decision to screen a documentary about the exiled Uighur activist, Rebiya Kadeer, it said. "Government constraints on freedom of expression within China are entrenched," it said.

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