Times of India

‘Chinese Pressure Forces Tibetan Films' Ouster’
(by Shabana Ansari | Times of India | August 17, 2004)

Two films from the Tibet package, one based on the political situation in Tibet and the other on the life of the Dalai Lama, have been pulled out of the Third Eye Asian Film Festival to be held in Mumbai between August 21 and 28.

The decision to pull out 'Kundun' which chronicles the life of the Dalai Lama and 'Seven Years in Tibet' based on Heinrich Harrer's account of life in Tibet, was allegedly taken after the organisers were asked by the Chinese Consulate in Mumbai not to screen the films.

General Secretary of Friends of Tibet (India) Tenzin Tsunde says he is shocked at the Chinese government for "cunningly trying to curb the truth (about the situation in Tibet) through political pressure".

Friends of Tibet, the organisation that has arranged for the films, has been extensively campaigning for a free Tibet.

"The Chinese government has taken objection to the propaganda and has complained to the I&B ministry," says festival director Sudhir Nandgaonkar.

He did not deny that the officials from the Chinese consulate had called him up for the purpose. However, Nandgaonkar claims the real reason for dropping the films is that they had reached him very late and hence could not be sent to the review committee.

"I had asked them to arrange for seven films and they sent me only four, and that too quite late. And since the Chinese officials had already approached the I&B ministry with their grievance, we decided to play safe and not include the controversial movies," Nandgaonkar says.

But Aspi Mistry, spokesperson for Friends of Tibet, is not convinced. "If that was the real reason, how is it that they are screening the other two films in the Tibet package-' Himalaya' and 'Little Buddha'- which reached them around the same time?" he countered.

Founder and president of the organisation Sethu Das says this is not the first time that the Chinese consulate has tried to meddle in cultural events that involve Tibet.

During the Film Festival of Tibet 2000, the organisers were allowed to go ahead with the screening only after they had sent a list of films and other details to the external affairs ministry, he alleged.

Friends of Tibet is now vying for a parallel screening of the rejected films.