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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

The Unwinking Gaze: The Inside Story of the Dalai Lama’s Struggle for Tibet

July 18, 2008

By Ken Eisner
Georgia Straight, Canada
July 17, 208
Movie Reviews

A documentary by Joshua Dugdale. In English and Tibetan with English
subtitles. Unrated. Plays Friday, July 18, Sunday and Monday, July 20
and 21, and Wednesday, July 23, at the Vancity Theatre

The first part of the long title of this short documentary tackling the
Dalai Lama’s lifetime challenges may seem an odd adjective for someone
so easily amused. It’s actually taken from a story about how the founder
of Buddhism is said to have achieved enlightenment and then stared at a
nearby tree without blinking.

As inheritor (from Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson
Mandela) of the crown of active nonviolence, the leader of Tibetan
Buddhism is certainly not one for macho eyeballing. However, he
definitely has had to develop a very cool-headed attitude toward China’s
occupation of his homeland.

Not much gets resolved during the three years covered in The Unwinking
Gaze, but director-producer Joshua Dugdale got unprecedented access to
the Dalai Lama and his travelling retinue, and the well-shot, 70-minute
film conveys an acute sense of the forces bearing down on the world’s
most famous monk. He repeatedly warns of the “unrealistic expectations”
of people who count on him, whether unhealthy pilgrims who show up at
his retreat in Northern India or the increasingly frustrated Tibetans
themselves—some of whom are beginning to find his conciliatory approach
fatally out of touch.

For its part, with the Olympics on the near horizon, Beijing appears
determined to simply outlive the 73-year-old leader and therefore
doesn’t want to budge from its official view of Tenzin Gyatso as a
dangerous separatist. Along the way, leaders in Canada, the U.S., and
Belgium use or ignore him, as the circumstances dictate. And yet he
manages to stay under that tree—if not always staring, or smiling.
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