The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource | Free Classifieds |


Our network sites | Advanced

Originally published Friday, September 29, 2006 at 12:00 AM

E-mail E-mail article      Print Print      Share Share

Movie Review

The real Tibet, without Tibetans

Beauty, spectacle, tales of brutal oppression: These are the mainstays of movies about modern Tibet.

Documentaries tend to go over the same material, partly because Tibetans fear retribution for speaking frankly about China's dominance during the past half-century. Filmmakers usually protect the country's citizens by keeping them anonymous and not directly filming interviews.

Movie review 2.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Vajra Sky Over Tibet," a documentary written, directed and photographed by John Bush. 87 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. Metro.

Their silence is eloquent, but it's rarely enough to sustain a feature film. Typically, John Bush's "Vajra Sky Over Tibet" (the final part of a Tibetan trilogy) starts off by pledging that it won't be revealing any names, and for a while the gorgeous displays of Tibetan art and architecture are enough.

But eventually you can't help wishing for some human contact. While the lulling narration by Bush and two exiled Tibetans is informative, it doesn't quite fill the gap.

Partly an art-history lecture, partly an account of China's attempts to snuff out Buddhism, the movie is most interesting when it addresses China's fears about the Dalai Lama returning. The government has even installed its own 6-year-old "puppet Dalai Lama."

A better-known Dalai Lama — the one exiled from Tibet decades ago — gives Bush his official blessing: "I am grateful to him for his dedication to this project."

Martin Scorsese's lightly fictionalized "Kundun" (1997) escaped the limitations of documentaries about Tibet because the dramatic framework allowed Scorsese to use his imagination. But then he had to film his Tibetan scenes in Morocco, and Bush can claim access to the real thing.

— John Hartl, Special to The Seattle Times

E-mail E-mail article      Print Print      Share Share

More Movies

Movie review: 'The Adjustment Bureau': Hats off to a fine fantasy

Movie review: 'Beastly': Fairy-tale misfits who look like models

Movie review: 'Rango': Johnny Depp nails his role as the lizard hero in this wild Western

Movie review: 'Take Me Home Tonight': a big '80s party you may not want to crash

Actor Mickey Rooney tells Congress about abuse

More Movies headlines...


Get home delivery today!



AP Video

Entertainment | Top Video | World | Offbeat Video | Sci-Tech