By Tashi Wangchuk
WASHINGTON, DC, US, 28 June 2016
After seeing the impressive trailer of Dodo Hunziker’s Tibetan Warrior, I certainly had to see the film. Also Loten Namling la, my favourite, a well-known Tibetan singer, is featured in it. It took a while to make the film available to the world audience, but I am glad that I could finally lay my hands on Netflix, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The hour-and-twenty-four-minute-long film tells the real life story of a Switzerland-based Tibetan musician, his frustrations, aspirations, and struggle while the whole world continue to overlook what is happening inside Tibet and choose to shake hands with China. Tibetans behind the Himalayas are being oppressed to the point that many of them now resort to self-immolation, an unimaginable form of protest that the world has never seen at this magnitude.
The film primarily rides on Loten Namling’s journey on foot with a coffin from Bern to Geneva, about 350 kilometres. To Loten the coffin symbolises the slow death of his country, and his purpose is to educate people about Tibet during his long and arduous journey. The film also highlights aspects of his personal life, including two beautiful kids and their mother. Loten’s strong commitment to do something meaningful for his dying country is evident from the fact that both of his kids, despite being born and raised in a non-Tibetan community, converse quite comfortably in Tibetan.
The film carries some scenes that will melt one’s heart. Perhaps the best among all, is that of Loten receiving the remains of his late mother from his step-sister. He crushes the bones and offers the pieces into a small stream in upper Dharamshala in the hope that the deceased may one day be reborn as a Tibetan and serve the unfulfilled wishes of HH the Dalai Lama.
Loten’s meeting with HH the Dalai Lama is also very powerful and significant. When he asked His Holiness for guidance and advice about what one should do in order to highlight the deteriorating situation inside Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s advice is “be realistic, and more importantly, do not hate Chinese” — perhaps the least-expected advice a freedom fighter could ever receive. But the words of wisdom make sense. Violence and hatred may put a full stop to the Tibetan movement and activism that has been building up for the last many decades, as nowadays China is looking out for every opportunity to label exile Tibetans as terrorists.
Loten’s confrontation of Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who favours economic engagement with China, is as depressing as it is funny. Needless to say the minister’s lame protestations of how he actually cares dearly about Tibetan people and their human rights does not make much sense to Loten. If there is any comedic character in the film as such, Johann perfectly fits the slot.
Meeting the famed Franz Treichler of Young Gods is also a much-needed morale booster for the tired and weary Loten on his long journey.
Loten’s meetings with then Tibetan Exile Parliament speaker Penpa Tsering, poet and activist Lukar Jam, Tibetan Youth Congress President Tenzing Jigme, and Miss Tibet organiser Lobsang Wangyal effectively highlight the frustration that has been building up throughout his life as an asylee. In fact, everyone is frustrated when there is no tangible solution to Tibet’s issue for the last more than five decades now. Moreover, Tibetans living on foreign soils are polarised with two major ideologies to resolve their issue: independence vs autonomy for Tibet.
One can easily tell that filmmaker Dodo didn’t stage any of the scenes — nowadays many filmmakers stage and manipulate scenes and shots in order to cement their narrative. And for that matter, we applaud him for his genuine and unbiased treatment of the subject at hand. Dodo’s smooth cinematography and well-paced editing, complemented by Franz Treichler’s soul-stirring music, keep viewers engaged throughout.
An interesting watch, highly commended! More about the film is at TibetanWarrior.com.
About the author
Tashi Wangchuk is an independent filmmaker and TV producer whose earlier works include the feature-length film Richard Gere is My Hero and India's Doordarshan-commissioned film Democracy in Exile.