In 2008 the Tibetans in Tibet rose up against Chinese rule. The uprising spread to large parts of the country and one could feel how strong the political and cultural oppression was. It was during this time that Dhondup Wangchen and his friend Golog Jigme decided to document life in Tibet in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing.
They travelled through different regions in East Tibet to ask Tibetans about their opinion of the Olympic Games, their experiences of their lives under the Chinese regime and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Shortly after the shooting of the Documentary was finished, Dhondup Wangchen and Golog Jigme were arrested. Shortly before, the footage was brought to Switzerland to Dhondup Wangchen's cousin, who founded the association Filming For Tibet and edited the footage for the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind".
The film is a 25-minute documentary that gave the Tibetans within Tibet a voice and impressively expressed the reality of a oppressed people and at the same time their untiring will to survive. Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison for "undermining state power" in December 2009. After his arrest, a large-scale political campaign for his release was launched. The Filming for Tibet association was faced with the question of how to keep the case of Dhondup Wangchen current for several years, and so the idea arose to create a platform for Tibetan filmmaking: the Tibet Film Festival.
The first Tibet Film Festival
This platform should be dedicated to Dhondup Wangchen and offer young Tibetans the opportunity to express themselves in film. On March 27, 2009, the first Tibet Film Festival took place on a small scale at the Zeughaushof in Zurich. In addition to Tibetan films from Switzerland, Tibet, England and the USA, the theme "The importance of film for today's generation of young Tibetans" was discussed.
During his stay in prison, his health deteriorated due to harsh living conditions without access to medical care, and he was held in solitary confinement for six months.
His friend Golog Jigme is also arrested. In 2012 he manages to escape from prison and then to Switzerland, where he has lived since 2015. Golog Jigme, also known as Jigme Gyatso, is a Tibetan monk and human rights activist who has been imprisoned and tortured several times for his participation in the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind". Together with the director of the film, Dhondup Wangchen, who was imprisoned for 6 years, Golog Jigme documented the true situation in Tibet in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In the film, Tibetans speak of their daily oppression and their desire to see the Dalai Lama return to Tibet. In 2013, he was named one of the 100 Information Heroes by Reporters Without Borders.
Golog Jigme Gyatso
Golog Jigme, also known as Jigme Gyatso, is a Tibetan monk and human rights activist who has been detained and tortured several times for his involvement in the documentary Leaving Fear Behind. Together with the director of the film, Dhondup Wangchen, who was imprisoned for 6 years, Golog Jigme documented the true situation in Tibet in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
During this time, his wife Lhamo Tso, who has since moved to India and then to the USA, is tirelessly campaigning for the release of her husband. During his detention, his case was spotlighted by various international human rights organizations and governments, including the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Leaving Fear Behind has been shown in over 30 countries and has received great attention worldwide.
Dhondup Wangchen was released from prison in June 2014 and has lived with his family in the USA since 2017.
The Tibet Film Festival comes to Dharamsala
The Tibet Film Festival in India began in 2011 in a small hall of the Tibetan Children's Village Day School in McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and the 14th Dalai Lama. There have already been Tibetan film festivals in Dharamsala, but it was the first time that a festival was curated, organized and presented by Tibetans and focused exclusively on Tibetan films. More than 300 people attended the event and were surprised to see the impressive diversity of Tibetan filmmaking. The short film competition, which included a jury and an audience award, was a great success and is still considered one of the major highlights of the event.
The Tibet Film Festival in Dharamsala was founded by Tseten Allemann and Nyima Thondup, a couple from Switzerland, who networked with Tibetan groups and organizations in and around Dharamshala in order to present their work together.
10 years Tibet Film Festival
In recent years, the Tibet Film Festival has become an integral part of the cultural agenda of Tibetans and people interested in Tibet. It should give impulses for a differentiated and diverse picture of Tibet and support an independent film language.