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With: (voices) Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Ed Harris
Written by: Victoria Mudd, Sue Peosay
Directed by: Tom Peosay
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/13/2002

Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

War vs. Peace

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With his new documentary Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion, director Tom Peosay looks at the fifty-plus year conflict between China and Tibet, and there's no question which side he's on. Peosay demonstrates that the Tibetans have already figured out a spiritually balanced way of life -- many Americans have turned to Buddhism as a way of finding peace and emotional centering -- while the Chinese are shown as nothing more than unwanted, violent persecutors who wish to use the optimally located Tibet as a foothold in their empire. Peosay gives Chinese government officials very little time for argument, and the only rebuttal they give is that they're trying to bring the peaceful Tibetans up to date. The film counters this statement by showing a Tibetan nun describing her brutal torture by members of the Chinese military, while the Dalai Lama himself speaks with great elegance of peace and passive resistance. Peosay makes up for this lack of journalistic objectivity with great passion and with the film's vivid beauty and crystal precision. He is clearly just as enamored of the Tibetan way of life -- their peaceful rituals, colorful clothing and dedication to study, all framed beneath the majestic Himalayas -- as he is by their persecution. It's easy to get riled up while watching Cry of the Snow Lion, especially when the film hits home. In one scene, Peosay reveals that the Tibetans spent on education and enlightenment an equal proportion of the money Americans spend yearly on defense. Indeed, American movie stars Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Ed Harris were apparently moved enough to lend their narration and voiceovers to the film. Yet, even though Peosay spent a decade working on his film, it still comes down to the usual talking heads and stock footage PBS filmmaking format. For an even more powerful look at this heartbreaking story, seek out Martin Scorsese's underrated 1997 film Kundun, the story of the Dalai Lama's central dilemma; sticking to one's belief in peace when invaders attack with horrible violence.

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