China Focus: Tibetan directors tell on-screen stories about hometown

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-11 12:47:02|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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XINING, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Jinpa, a trucker of ethnic Tibetan group, accidentally kills a sheep with his vehicle before picking up a hitchhiker who is on the way to kill a man who murdered his father 10 years ago.

Although they part ways later, the coincidence of these two incidents haunts Jinpa, so he tries to track down the hitchhiker and stop the murder. This is the plot of the ongoing film "Jinpa."

Set on Hoh Xil, or Kekexili, an isolated plateau region in northwest China's Qinghai Province, "Jinpa" is the sixth feature film from Tibetan writer-director Pema Tseden.

The film, which scored 7.4 out of 10 points on the Chinese movie rating platform Douban, has grossed more than 10 million yuan (around 1.5 million U.S. dollars) since it premiered in the Chinese mainland on April 26, a big number for Tibetan movies in recent years.

Before its release in the domestic film market, Pema Tseden won the Best Screenplay award for "Jinpa" in the Orizzonti section of the 75th Venice Film Festival last year.

Award-winning director Wong Kar Wai, also a producer of "Jinpa," said the film peeps into the world with the eyes of ethnic Tibetans, and the audience can discover the Tibetan way of thinking, life and their understanding of relations.


"With the development of the ethnic minority film industry, it has become a trend for Tibetan directors to record Tibetan people's life and intimate sides," 49-year-old Pema Tseden said, hoping that audiences with different cultural backgrounds can create their own understanding of the film.

Born in a village in Guide County of Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai, Pema Tseden always aspired to see the outside world and change his life.

He tried many professions such as working as a primary school teacher and as a local government employee. In 2002, he entered the Beijing Film Academy to start his endeavor in film production.

He has won many Chinese and international film awards. In 2005, the year when the 100th anniversary of the birth of Chinese film was marked, Pema Tseden's first movie "The Silent Holy Stones" won the Golden Rooster Award for Best Directorial Debut. This film is believed to mark the beginning of Chinese Tibetan-language movies.

Some film critics say his works reflect Tibetan people's struggle in maintaining a balance between tradition and modern life with naturalistic storytelling, rather than amusing the audience with epic narration or an overload of breathtaking scenery.

"In the past, most Tibetan movies tended to show plateau scenery or mysterious religious elements but lacked concerns about humanity," Tibetan director Sonthar Gyal said.

Sonthar Gyal's film "Ala Changso" won the jury grand prix and best screenplay at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2018. In "Ala Changso," a young mother with a fatal illness, accompanied by her current husband and son, made the pilgrimage to Lhasa that she promised her first husband on his deathbed.

"This is a story of an ordinary Tibetan family that describes common human emotions. It can happen in any corner of the world," Sonthar Gyal said.


In China, Tibetans mainly live in the Tibet Autonomous Region and parts of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

Films by Tibetan directors have been winning more fans in the last few years. The success has inspired more young Tibetans to pursue their movie-making dreams and spread traditional Tibetan culture.

Director Lhapal Gyal's movie "Wangdrak's Rain Boot" centers around a Tibetan boy's dream for a pair of rain boots.

"Tibetan areas are only used as backgrounds in movies, while the Tibetan elements provide richer narrative clues for movies," 30-year-old Lhapal Gyal said.

Film is an art derived from life. "As there is an increasing number of Tibetan directors recording Tibetan culture and life through films, this can help protect and spread Tibetan culture," Pema Tseden said.

Sonthar Gyal echoes his view. "This era gives young Tibetan directors more possibilities. They are our hope and responsibility," he said.

Sonthar Gyal established a movie base at his hometown in Tongde County, Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He hopes the base would provide settings for film shooting and organize training for talent.

The seeds of film have been sowed. Last summer, more than 20 students from Tongde County signed up for examination for film and television production in the prefecture's vocational school, according to Drugyal, director with the county's enrollment office.

"Perhaps the film base in their hometown and screenplay contests inspired them to pursue their movie-making dream," Drugyal said.

Pema Tseden hopes more youth to fall in love with movies while finding their direction of life. "Hopefully, the dream we are building now could be a part of their dreams," he said.