D.C. film fest fracas

Tibet-themed 'Windhorse' draws China protest

WASHINGTON — The Chinese government is demanding that a D.C. film festival cancel the planned unspooling of a feature about human rights issues in Tibet.

“Windhorse,” which is scheduled for a public exhibition here on May 2, is a docudrama about the Tibetan resistance movement and was clandestinely shot in Nepal and Tibet without permission of the Chinese government. The 97-minute film was written and directed by Academy Award-winning producer Paul Wagner.

In an April 30 letter, Li Gang, Minister-Counsellor for Cultural Affairs with the Chinese embassy in Washington, wrote, “After viewing the film, we must point out that the story of “Windhorse” is completely false, and its intention is obviously to smear China’s policy toward Tibet.” The letter goes on to say, “This Embassy therefore strongly regrets the decision of the Film Festival.

Filmfest DC director Tony Gittens said Thursday that he would reject the Chinese government’s demand to drop the film. “Absolutely not,” said Gittens, adding, “That will never be a consideration. We choose films based on their quality, not on political considerations.” Gittens added that the Chinese officials are welcome to attend the screening and participate in the question-and-answer period that follows.

This is Gittens second run-in with the Chinese government in the 12-year history of Filmfest DC, which focuses on international movies. Several years ago, Chinese officials made a similar demand for the withdrawal of “Gate of Heavenly Peace.”

The film won an award for best U.S. independent film at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, where Wagner also won best director.