Tibet in Harlem (March 1st - 7th, 2009)

From March 1st - 7th, 2009, the Maysles Cinema, a new movie house and community space in Harlem, co-presents Tibet in Harlem with The Kham Film Project, Machik, and Robert Barnett, Director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University.

Tibet in Harlem is a weeklong series of film screenings accompanied by special events, panel discussions, performances, arts exhibits and receptions.

The screenings are co-sponsored by New York-area Tibetan community organizations and international non-profit organizations working inside Tibet and proceeds from the events will go to these organizations.
Tibet in Harlem provides audiences with more than the traditional movie-going experience. It offers opportunities to experience other forms of Tibetan culture, learn about exciting new projects, engage in dialog, and get involved.

March 10th marks the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, when thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Dalai Lamas palace to ensure his safety in the days prior to his exile. The week leading up to this anniversary offers a critical time for reflection and dialog on the fifty years of tension and unresolved conflict in Tibet.

The downstairs reception area will feature works by local Tibetan artists including Tenzin Phakmo, Tenzing Rigdol and Sonam Dhundup and other young Tibetan artists. This space will also be used for the sale of various items including Tibetan books, DVDs, Tibetan jewelry and handmade Tibetan rugs. 100% of the wholesale value of every rug will support the initiatives of Machik, an NGO working to improve educational opportunities in rural Tibet.


Sunday March 1, 7:00 pm

Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet 

Directors: Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Year: 2000
Runtime: 49min 

The Tibetan people are well known for being devoutly religious and peace loving. What is less known is that thousands of Tibetans took up arms against the invading forces of Communist China and waged a bitter and bloody guerrilla war. From the mid-1950s until 1969 they were aided in their efforts by an unlikely ally, the CIA. This project, code-named ST CIRCUS, was one of the CIA's longest running covert operations. The withdrawal of the CIA's support in 1969 was as abrupt as its initial involvement was unexpected: the Tibetans had simply fitted into America's larger policy of destabilising or overthrowing Communist regimes, and when that no longer applied, they were abandoned. With unique archive footage and exclusive interviews with former resistance fighters and surviving CIA operatives, The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet reveals for the first time this hitherto unknown chapter in Tibet's recent history - a tale that is both heroic and tragic, full of sad ironies and unexpected twists that overturn all preconceptions about both Tibet and the CIA.

Raid Into Tibet

Director: Adrian Cowell
Year: 1964 
Courtesy of the Tibet Film Archive 

The only available film of the Tibetan guerilla fighters who carried on their resistance efforts in Tibet from the remote Mustang area of Nepal from 1960 to 1974. George Patterson, author and Tibetan expert, takes the viewer to the secret guerilla camps and accompanies the men on a mission to raid a Chinese military truck convoy.

Followed by panel discussion with Ken Knaus, Chief of the Tibetan Task Force for the CIA, 1961-1965 and author of Orphans of the Cold War. Reception with Tibetan refreshments to follow. 

Monday March 2, 7:30 pm 

Leaving Fear Behind 

Directors: Dhondup Wangchen, Golog Jigme
Year: 2008
Runtime: 25min 
In Tibetan, Jigdrel

A heroic film shot by Tibetans from inside Tibet, who longed to bring Tibetan voices to the Beijing Olympic Games. With the global spotlight on China as it rises to host the XXIX Olympics, Tibetans wish to tell the world of their plight and their heartfelt grievances against Chinese rule. The footage was smuggled out of Tibet under extraordinary circumstances. The filmmakers were detained soon after sending their tapes out, and remain in detention today.

Distorted Propaganda 

Director: Jeff Lodas
Year: 2007
Runtime: 62min 

Through the window of Chinese propaganda in Tibet, this film looks at topics such as education, entertainment, urban development, religion, political anniversary celebration, and the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

Five interviews reveal what it is like to grow up, live and work with propaganda in daily life. Three anonymous Tibetans discuss their experiences with education, media, and popular music. Interviewed on camera are Chopata Mache, a composer, and Agya Rinpoche, former Abbot of Kumbum Monastery in Amdo and VP of the Chinese Buddhist Association.

Panel Discussion and Reception to follow. Director Jeff Lodas will be present for Q&A.

Tuesday March 3, 7:30 pm

Co-Presented by Asia Society         

The Forbidden Team 

Directors: Arnold Krøgaard and Rasmus Dinesen
Year: 2008
Runtime: 54min

Made by Danish filmmakers Rasmus Dinesen and Arnold Krøjgaard, this documentary relates the heart-warming story of the first ever international football match played by the Tibetan national football team, made up of exiled Tibetans. The film follows the story from the trials for the Tibetan team, right through to the friendly match played against the Greenlandic national side which took place in Denmark. The match caused much controversy, with both FIFA and the Chinese Government attempting to prevent it from taking place, but the match nevertheless took place in a show of dedication to the beautiful game as well as to the nation of Tibet.

Beauty and the Beast: A Search for Miss Tibet 

Director: Tenzin Tsetan Choklay
Year: 2006
Runtime: 13min

A short film about the first Miss Tibet in Exile beauty pageant

Miss Tibet in Exile 

Directors: Tashi Wangchuk and Tsultrim Dorjee
Year: 2008
Runtime: 41min 

Miss Tibet in Exile is a documentary film about the making of Miss Tibet beauty pageant in India and the winning girl's subsequent participation in the Miss Earth beauty pageant in the Philippines. The film portrays various behind the scene activities of the pageant's organizer Lobsang Wangyal and it also features several notable Tibetan personalities expressing their views on the beauty pageant.

Director Tashi Wangchuk and Lobsang Wangyal will be available for Q&A via Skype.

Wednesday March 4, 7:30 pm

Co-Presented by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation

Tibetan Story

Christian Aid
Year: 1965
Runtime: 25minCourtesy of the Tibet Film Archive 

The 1965 film examines the problem and needs of the Tibetan people in exile and the assistance provided by Church organizations for their resettlement in a new environment. The film offers a wide selection of scenes from Tibetan settlements in India , with special emphasis on the educational needs of the children, health problems of the refugees, the maintenance of Tibet culture and the future of the Tibetan people. Office of Tibet.

Stranger in My Native Land

Directors: Ritu Sarin and Tezing Sonam
Year: 1998
Runtime: 33min

A Stranger in my Native Land is the poignant and personal account of Tenzing Sonam's first-ever visit to his homeland. From the far reaches of Amdo Province, where Tibetans have lost their language, to Lhasa, the heart of the country, the film captures his meetings with long-lost relatives and conveys a sense of the desperation of Tibet as a country under occupation.

Panel discussion and Poetry reading by Tenzing Rigdol to follow.

Tashi Writes a Letter 

Year: 1964
Runtime: 25min
Courtesy of the Tibet Film Archive 

An intimate look at early Tibetan exile life in Darjeeling India. The film portrays the young Kambu family as they journey into exile. The Kambus' live in a community of 60 exile Tibetan families who fashion living quarters by separating sections between the trestles that run under a major road in the city. The family is introduced to the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center at Hillside. Caretaker Nancy Thondup, wife to the older brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama introduces work, health, and care into the lives of the Kambu family. The film features early footage of wool production, carpet making, wood cutting, and educating both in academic and cultural values within a Tibetan ideological framework.

Thursday March 5, 7:30 pm

Co-Presented by Asian Cinevision

Religious Investiture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 
Office of Tibet
Year: 1970
Runtime: 20min
Courtesy of the Tibet Film Archive 

A colorful documentary record of sequences from the rigorous oral examinations required of the Dalai Lama to achieve his Geshe Lharampa degree (highest order of Doctor of Divinity degree). Some of the footage was filmed in 1958, and the balance in February 1959, only weeks before the Tibetan Uprising and the flight of the Dalai Lama to India . Informative and interesting scenes of the Potala Palace, Lhasa city and surrounding areas, Tsuglagkhang (the Central Cathedral), Ganden monastery (now destroyed), monks, government officials and ceremonial dancers from the original 8mm films.

The Dalai Lama in Colombia 
*Special Work-In-Progress Screening* 
Director: Lina Dorado
Year: 2009
Runtime: 68min

Dalai Lama in Colombia is a documentary about a three-day visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Bogotá, Colombia, in May 2006. It offers both an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the various public events that took place during his stay, as well as rare glimpses of the Dalai Lama's private audiences with diverse members of Colombian society – government officials, members of the Buddhist community, indigenous tribal leaders, and other victims of the nation's ongoing conflict.

Q&A with filmmakers Lina Dorado, Cecil Esquivel-Obregon and Kevin Chapados to follow.

Friday March 6, 7:30 pm

Co-Presented by Machik

Kekexili (Mountain Patrol)

Director: Chuan Lu
Year: 2004
Runtime: 90min 
Courtesy of Through an Exile Lens 

Kekexili (Mountain Patrol) is a film inspired by a people's remarkable mission surrounding the illegal Tibetan antelope poaching in the region of Kekexili, the largest animal reserve in China. The story is brought to the screen with great detail by director Lu Chuan. Set against the exquisite backdrop of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, Chuan tells the tale of brave local Tibetans who face death and starvation to save the endangered antelope herds from a band of ruthless hunters.

Followed by panel discussion with Professor Wu Fengshi, currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Reception, Tibetan refreshments and dance performance by Pema Tso to follow.

Saturday March 7, 2:00 pm

Children's Program 

Runtime: 90min 
A selection of classic cartoons in Tibetan.

Saturday March 7, 7:00 pm

The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche 
Director: Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Year: 1991
Runtime: 50min

Choenzey is a 47-year-old monk living in a Tibetan refugee monastery in South India. His spiritual master, Khensur Rinpoche, a revered high lama, has been dead for four years. According to Tibetan belief, he will soon be reincarnated. It is Choenzey's responsibility, as his closest disciple, to find the reincarnation and to look after him. The film follows Choenzey's search and his eventual discovery of an impish but gentle 4-year-old boy who is recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan State Oracle to be the reincarnation. Without sentimentality, the film captures the moving relationship that develops between the erstwhile disciple and his young master.

Thread of Karma 
Directors: Ritu Sarin and Tezning Sonam
Year: 2007
Runtime: 50min

Sixteen years later, the directors revisit the reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche at Drepung Monastery in South India, where he has been brought up within the age-old traditions of Tibetan Buddhist monastic life. He is now 20 years old, and his devoted attendant, Choenzey, continues to take care of him. His spiritual teacher is Geshe Wangchen, 

one of the most respected masters in the monastery, who was himself a disciple of Khensur Rinpoche.

Thread of Karma offers an intimate look at the life of the young lama as he aspires to live up to the reputation of his former incarnation. It also explores his moving relationship with the two people closest to him, his attendant and his spiritual master, both of whom were connected to him in his previous life. By focusing on these ties that cut across lifetimes, the film paints a touching and insightful portrait of the Rinpoche even as it demystifies the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of reincarnation.

Reception Tibetan refreshments and special musical performance by Phurbu Lhamo to follow.


Ken Knaus came into contact with the Tibet issue as a CIA case officer who was allocated to work with Gyato Thondup, the Dalai Lama's elther brother, on the Tibet issue at the UN in 1959. He was in charge of political training for the Tibetan recruits at Camp Hale, Colorado until 1962. He was Chief of the Tibet Task Force from 1962 to 1965, when he was based in New Delhi. After retirement he became a leading historian of American policies concerning Tibet, and published an acclaimed history of the CIA's Tibet operations, Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival in 1999. He is currently completing a major history of US policies concerning Tibet.

Andrew Clark translated a new collection of poems Tibet's True Heart, which had been written over 20 years by Woeser, Tibet's most well-known writer and commentator. These poems were first published at the worst time during the 50 years of crackdown in Tibet, when hundreds of Tibetans had 'disappeared' or had been silenced following a wave of protests against Chinese rule that swept the plateau from March onwards. Despite living under almost constant police surveillance in Beijing together with her husband, Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, Woeser continues to be one of the most eloquent and fiercest critics of Chinese oppression in Tibet. This book reveals the discovery of her Tibetan Buddhist identity and her country's past after an upbringing in elite Party circles speaking Chinese. Her writings are reflections on life, memory, loss and spiritual faith as well as forbidden subjects such as political imprisonment and injustice.

Wu Fengshi 呉逢時 is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Government and Public Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is an expert on NGOs in China and particularly on transnational advocacy networks in international affairs, the environmental movement in China, and health politics. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, where she's working on a project on the Relevance of International Non-Government Organizations in China.



Showing in the Maysles Cinema Gallery. An exhibit of original paintings by local Tibetan artists. For more information or to request prices, please contact the artists directly.



Tenzin Phakmo
(347) 735-3876 

Tenzing Rigdol
 (303) 748-6488 



Sonam Dhondop
(347) 205-2839 


MUSICAL PERFORMANCES by Tibetan singers and musicians

SOUNDS OF TIBET, performed by Gompo & Pema Tso

Phurbu Lhamo



Special Thanks

Robyn Brentano Fifty Years in Exile
Irene Cifra Asian Cinevision
Laura Coxson Maysles Films
Tenzin Dolker Machik
Ariel Elia Maysles Films
Matt Flynn 
Michelle Friedline Maysles Films
Cecil Matthai Esquivel-Obregon Film Producer
Alex Gardner The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
Sofia Gallisa Maysles Films
Gompo Sounds of Tibet
Jigme Gorap Tibetan Community of NY/NJ
Tencho Gyatso International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)
Chelsea Hall Office of the Tibet Center at University of Virginia
Sonali Joshi Through an Exile Lens
Yoshito Karatani Film Curator
Katharine Kean Crowing Rooster Arts

Tsering Key 
Helen Koh Asia Society
Dhondup Lhamo 
Phurbu Lhamo Singer
Rebekah Maysles Maysles Films
Bruce Payne The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
Thupten Pema 
Tenzing Phakmo Artist
Alana Salcer Crowing Rooster Arts
Ritu Sarin Film Director @ White Crane Films
Sarah Seigel Kham Film Project
Katie Sorohan Maysles Films
Yodon Thonden The Isdell Foundation
Pema Tso Sounds of Tibet
Rachel Weingeist The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation
Eveline Yang The Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library
Tsering Wangla