The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom
Directed by: Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam Cast: the Dalai Lama Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins Rating: unrated Release Date: July 2, 2010 (limited)
PLOT: Documentary following protests by Tibetans both in Tibet and in exile against China, leading up to the Beijing Olympics.
WHO'S IT FOR? Anyone who has a Free Tibet sticker on their car but doesn't know why China owns Tibet.
EXPECTATIONS: In general, if Richard Gere tells me to do something I do the opposite. So I didn't know much about why China insists on keeping Tibet. Maybe I'd learn something?
The Dalai Lama as himself: Though I've seen the Dalai Lama on TV, I never listened to him speak before. He's definitely an engaging and interesting speaker, and that helps explain why the Free Tibet movement has so many adherents. But as he makes clear, he's not a political leader, he's a religious leader. Every Tibetan we see in the film wants autonomy from China. Most of the speakers say it's because the Chinese government has limited religious expression. But the Dalai Lama is willing to accept a compromise he refers to as "The Middle Way", in which Tibetans would run the government while China still owned Tibet. This tenant has to do with his Buddhist beliefs and a principle of compromise, of two beliefs coming together and finding a greater acceptable middle path. I didn't really totally understand it, and I think the filmmakers could have gotten a little more into what the Dalai Lama was thinking, but then again, I guess he's written about 40 books so I could always look for more info there. My problem, then, is what kind of score do you give to the reincarnation of Buddha? Score: 7
TALKING: People speak in English, Chinese and Tibetan. And a lot of them are really angry. Still many of the talking heads do a good job making their point, and the narration is pretty well written. For a film that has a definite stance on the issue of Tibet, they do a decent job of saying why China is so interested in Tibet. Score: 6
SIGHTS: Some of the scenery is really beautiful, and there are some vibrant colors. But it's not really shot as a travelogue. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Just incidental sound, which includes some religious music. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: In a pinch, I'll say the most interesting scene involves the Dalai Lama telling his followers that he isn't the only one who can free Tibet, that they need to work for Tibet's freedom as well.
ENDING: Tibet is freed! OK, that was in poor taste. We're left with a very fractured seeming Tibet, the Dalai Lama is suggesting a compromise while the Tibetan people seem to want China all the way out. So it kind of ends in a question mark, where is Tibet heading?
QUESTIONS: Um, where is Tibet heading? Will the Chinese government ever be convinced to give up Tibet? Can there be a peaceful resolution?
REWATCHABILITY: Though there is interesting information, a lot of the film is dull and it feels like many people are saying the same thing. So yeah, not anxious to see this again.
The Sun Behind the Clouds is a documentary on a mission. This is a film intent on bringing more people into the fold on the Free Tibet platform. Unfortunately, because of that there's really only one side to the story. I believe that the Tibetan people feel oppressed and I'm definitely interested in finding out why China seems intent on keeping Tibet. The filmmakers make a few suggestions, but they never actually speak to anyone in Chinese politics. This wouldn't be an insurmountable obstacle, except that the rest of the film seems a little by rote. There are some good moments, and the Dalai Lama makes some interesting points. But I felt like I only got one part of a very complex story.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10