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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

The Sun Behind the Clouds

July 13, 2010

The Diplomat (Japan)
July 12, 2010

Last week the Dalai Lama turned 75, and there was
a mass of news and opinion from around the world
to consider about the spiritual leader. And,
perhaps not surprisingly, most of this coverage
seemed to highlight the current speculation and
uncertainly looming over the future of Tibet and its people.

But while news of such politically difficult
situations can often be disheartening to dwell
on, I feel lucky to have the privilege to
counterbalance it with stories I hear from
journalists, photographers and writers who have
recently been to some these turbulent and
troubled regions of the world. For whether it’s
Iran or Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan or Burma, it
seems consistently the case that they want us to
remember that there’s so much more to any country
than what the mainstream media usually allows us to see.

Aside from the politics and security that
dominate mainstream news coverage, there’s
culture, art and community -- things that very
much create the intricate ties that bind people
together and define their day-to-day lives, aspirations and identities.

A perfect example comes from diplomat and
photographer Tom Kuczynski, who I interviewed a
couple of months ago and whose photo essay,
‘Illuminating Iran,’ we will be featuring this
week. I remember him telling me how meaningful he
found his interactions with the people of Iran
while he was there. I also recall how it stood
out for me that in reference to his Iran photo project, he stated:

‘... how deep, rich and complex the human
tapestry is, so far from the one-dimensional
concepts tailored for the convenience of evening news.’

But back to Tibet, a new documentary, The Sun
Behind the Clouds, which has already picked up
awards from international film festivals and
mostly positive reviews from movie critics has
screenings scheduled in the US and Europe
throughout the summer. This is a work that may
also further illuminate the Tibetan people and
give a more in-depth insight into their situation.

According to the film’s official website, The Sun
Behind the Clouds was made by a couple from India
who had intimate access to the Dalai Lama, having
been granted permission to follow him over the
course of ‘an eventful year,’ (2008), including
during the 2008 protests in Tibet, the Beijing
Olympics and the breakdown in talks between the
leader’s representatives and the Chinese
government. It further asserts that this timely
shooting period has allowed the documentary to
explore the ‘interplay between the personal and
the historic, spirituality and politics, and the
tension between the Dalai Lama’s efforts to find
a peaceful solution to the Tibet situation based
on compromise and dialogue, and the impatience of
a younger generation of Tibetans who are ready to
take a more confrontational course.’

As mentioned, reviews of the film have been
largely positive. The LA Times calls The Sun
Behind the Clouds ‘beautiful, stirring and
inescapably elegiac,’ while industry magazine
Variety gives credit to the objectivity of the
work -- that it manages to provide ‘a two-sided
view of the complex political and social dynamics
within and outside Tibet.’ And the Boston Globe,
far from objective in its review, points out that
although ‘wondrous colour and beauty often fill
the screen’ in the form of ‘monks’ robes,
protesters’ banners, the spectacular Himalayan
landscape,’ that the ‘most wondrous of all’ is
the on-screen presence of the Dalai Lama
himself,who makes the picture entirely worth watching.
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