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Out of Tibet

An engaging odd-couple portrait, Solveig Klaben's debut feature "Out of Tibet" draws plenty of human interest -- if little larger thematic resonance -- from the wedlock of an exiled Tibetan lama and a punk-accordionist Berliner. Colorful duo makes for natural fest material, though docu's modest overall impact earmarks arts pubcasters as the likeliest source of further exposure.

An engaging odd-couple portrait, Solveig Klaben’s debut feature “Out of Tibet” draws plenty of human interest — if little larger thematic resonance — from the wedlock of an exiled Tibetan lama and a punk-accordionist Berliner. Colorful duo makes for natural fest material, though docu’s modest overall impact earmarks arts pubcasters as the likeliest source of further exposure.

Sandra Harbener had logged miles as a teen runaway, heroin addict and minor punk scene celeb when she adopted Buddhism, eventually traveling to India. There she met Ngawang Gelek, decreed sixth incarnation of a hallowed Tibetan lama; he’d been forced to leave his native land due to his political activism against Chinese occupation. Pic begins with their revisiting sites of that initial courtship, then observes pair’s current life in Berlin, as they eke out a bare living between his public square protests/begging and her chanteusery. Later Sandra travels with their toddler daughter to join Ngawang’s parents for a secret tundra meeting. Both protags are good-humored extroverts, though Klaben might have pushed some intriguing buttons (re: Ngawang’s supposed sacrifice of future incarnations, or Sandra’s tense relationship with her own parents). Tech aspects are polished.

Out of Tibet

Germany

Production: A Lichtblick production in association with ZDF/arte. Produced by Carl-Ludwig Rettinger. Directed, written by Solveig Klaben.

Crew: Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Lutz Reitmeier; editor, Andreas Zitzmann; music, Hannes Perkunder. Reviewed on videocassette, Jan. 17, 2001, San Francisco. (In Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco.) Running time: 88 MIN.

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