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Dreaming Lhasa

(2007) ** 1/2 Unrated
90 min. First Run Features. Directors: Ritu Sarin, Tenzing Sonam. Cast: Jampa Kalsang Tamang, Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso, Tenzin Jigme, Phuntsok Namgyal Dhumkhang, Tsering Topgyal Phurpatsang.
Dreaming Lhasa scores points simply for being the first film by Tibetans about contemporary Tibetan experience. Karma (Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso), a Tibetan documentarian living in New York, comes to Dharamsala, India to record the stories of former political prisoners now living as refugees. Arrested by the story of one subject—whose only wish is to deliver a charm box on behalf of his mother—the filmmaker agrees to help the man find the box's rightful recipient. All the while, Karma and her distinctly different love interests—urban-minded Jigme (Tenzin Jigme) and earnest traditionalist Dhondup—prove a living allegory for modern Tibet's neurotic straddling of native past and Westernized future. Co-directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (whose background also lies in documentary) make the mistake of filming mediocre acting in tight close-up, but the story slowly builds momentum and the final scene has a surprising, redemptive kick.
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