A documaker of Tibetan descent gets back in touch with her troubled country's past in "Dreaming Lhasa," a sensitive if literal-minded tale that demonstrates how Tibet's national identity is of a piece with its spiritual heart. Fests with global focus will show great interest, but non-fest life looks limited to ancillary.

A documaker of Tibetan descent gets back in touch with her troubled country’s past in “Dreaming Lhasa,” a sensitive if literal-minded tale that demonstrates how Tibet’s national identity is of a piece with its spiritual heart. Vet documentarians Ritu Sarin and Tensing Sonam’s feature (funded partly by Jeremy Thomas and Richard Gere) rings of the autobiographical as it shows how crafting a docu can be like a sleuthing operation, and captures a sense of Tibetan exiles’ lives in India. Fests with global focus will show great interest, but non-fest life looks limited to ancillary.

Lensing her latest docu in Dharamsala, Indian home to Tibetans, Gotham-based Karma (Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso) interviews former monk Dhondup (Jampa Kalsang), who describes his torture at hands of Chinese invaders. Affected by his story and manner, Karma helps Dhondup search for a long-vanished man so he can deliver his mother’s charm box to him. Karma’s jealous assistant Jigme (Tenzin Jigme), however, thinks Dhondup is using Karma to get a green card. The quest leads to some fascinating facts — such as how ex-CIA Tibetan recruits became monks — even if the ideas expressed are fairly flat on screen.

Dreaming Lhasa

India - U.K.

Production

A White Crane Films presentation in association with Jeremy Thomas. (International sales: HanWay Films, London.) Produced by Ritu Sarin. Executive producers, Jeremy Thomas, Richard Gere, Raj Singh. Directed by Ritu Sarin, Tenzing Sonam. Screenplay, Sonam.

Crew

Camera (Prasad Film Labs color), Ranjan Palit; editor, Paul Dosaj; music, Andy Spence; production designer, Rachna Rastogi; art director, Phuntsok Tsering; sound (Dolby Digital), Amrit Pritam Dutta, Vivek CQ, Subhashis Roy; supervising sound editor, Shajith Koyeri; associate producer, Tenzin Dorjee; assistant director, Devika Bhagat; casting, Dorjee, Dawa Narongsha. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 12, 2005. (Also in San Sebastian Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso, Jampa Kalsang, Tenzin Jigme, Phuntsok Namgyal Dhumkhang, Tsering Topgyal Phurpatsang. (Tibetan, English dialogue)
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