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A review of the film Windhorse 40

Last weekend, an advance screening of the film Windhorse was shown locally at CU Boulder as part of an SFT event. Since this is film news rather than nerd news, the usual slashdot film-review disclaimer applies: skip it if you don't want to read it.
Windhorse is a film about the struggles of a Tibetan family in Chinese occupied Tibet. The story begins fifteen years ago with a flashback to the childhood of the film's three main characters. Two chinese soldiers come to their village, pass the singing and playing children, and shoot the childrens' grandfather who is praying. The film then cuts over to their current occupations. The boy, Dorjee, is now an unemployed disillusioned man who wastes his days drinking and hanging out. His sister, Dolkar, has become a singer in a disco having mastered the chinese language and manners, and has a chinese boyfriend, Duan-Ping. Her cousin Pema has become a buddhist nun.

It's 1997, and Duan-Ping helps Dolkar get the attention of a high-ranking official, Mr Du, who can make her into a recording star. At the same time, the order comes from China's capital Beijing that no Tibetan person or Abbey may own a picture of HH the Dalai Lama. This order results in Pema's arrest and torture and sparks the rest of the film, which shows Dorjee's path from violent disillusionment to helping the Tibetan underground, and Dolkar's change from a person concerned about money to someone concerned about her fellow Tibetans. The full story is online for people who don't mind spoilers.

Although the story itself is fictitious, some of its material is based on true events experienced by Tibetan refugees. The film is biassed to the extent that its makers want the occupation of Tibet to cease. But, the tone of the website not with-standing, the film is not anti-chinese. Duan-Ping is a very likeable character, doing his best to help in a very strict hierarchical system where higher-ups such as Mr Du make it very clear who is in control. While Duan-Ping and Dolkar's subservience seems unlikely to Western Eyes, I remember seeing it when I lived in China: we had bought sweets from some merchants in a provincial town, but a dispute arose as to who had sold what to us. When the local police intervened, everybody was very subservient to them. Similarly, Pema's torture might seem unlikely, but torture in Tibet is widespread even for trivial offences.

Windhorse's making is a story of its own, and we were lucky to have Thupten Tsering, the film's co-director, at the event to tell us its story. Windhorse was filmed with handheld professional video-cameras. Some scenes were filmed in Lhasa, with ordinary Tibetans risking prison to participate as actors 1 , while others served as lookouts to warn the film-crew when the police were coming. Other scenes used digital wizardry to combine studio actors with film shot in Tibet. The rest was filmed in Kathmandu, Nepal, and at remote locations 12,500 feet up in the Himalayan Mountains.

I was very moved by Windhorse. As is so rare these days, this was not merely due to the music. In fact the realistic non-Hollywoodian style made it more believable and more touching. I would recommend this film to anyone, friend of Tibet or not.

1 This explains why some of the Chinese soldiers in the film look Tibetan.

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A review of the film Windhorse

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  • I can understand why people are worked up about what has happened to Tibet. What I cant understand is Why Tibet. There are plenty of places in the world where far lager amounts of people are having a hard time.

    Of cause the earthless farmers of Brazil or the flood victims in Bangladesh dosen't have such fancy skokesmen.

    People seem to think that the Tibetans has this fantastic religion. But all I see is a bunch of clowns dressed in red and yellow sheets, sitting in lotus position saying ying and yang.

    Before you flame me take a minute to think about this.

    Before the invasion who fed the monks. Did they get payed, or where they told that it was their religious duty to feed them while they lived in poverty ?
  • At some point [] during the Iraq debate Rob posted his view of what was postable, and what came out of that was that he left a fair degree of latitude to the people he trusts to edit the site. I don't mind occasionally indulging sengan - by and large the stuff he posts stuff well within the mainstream Rob described in the referenced post. But I object to the term "standard disclaimer" - better this stuff be an exception rather than Slashdot's remit be extended to include reviews of every film, or discussions of the political state of the (what is for me) Far East. If it's not an exception, you get lists like the one just posted, and precedents start getting quoted, and so on. If you follow this through to its conclusion, you'll get freeloaders like Jon Katz posting his favourite films and TV shows of the year, to avoid rolling his sleeves up and getting Linux working.
  • Sure, there is no such thing as a completely unbiased opinion, but at least some attempt should be made to show both sides of the story. For example, with the story on the US/UK vs. Iraq, rather than just condemning the action, and saying why others condemned it, sengan should also have mentioned why the US and the UK thought it necessary to undertake the action. Then the readers ccould have decided whose side of the story they liked better.

    A one-sided presentation of news is never a good thing, and that's what this was. Sengan even mentioned that Professor Chomsky (sp?) was one of the major sources for his article. However, if he had done some research, he would have found that Professor Chomsky has long been an outspoken critic of using force against Iraq, even doing several spoken-word tracks condemning the Gulf War on a 1991 vinyl (which also contained several songs by Bad Religion on it, probably to get people who bought it for the music to as a side effect hear, and possibly be influenced with, Prof. Chomsky's speeches/rants). That said, I respect, and largely agree with Prof. Chomsky, but he's still not a good source for a news article.
  • Posted by Dacre:

    I like it that /. cares about politics - I'm glad I can find...

    ...articles dealing with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and it's political aims, articles dealing with the political difference between Microsoft's corporate tyranny versus the GPL's inbuilt democracy, articles dealing with encryption backdoors for the NSA and the impact on people's privacy, articles about the music industry's draconian use of intellectual property law to hammer freedom of speech, articles dealing with banks using databased information to created social classes of 'winners' and 'losers', articles dealing with politically motivated hackers tageting political websites, articles dealing with the political situation in Tibet, anticles dealing with the implications of patenting software, articles dealing with... hell, that shows you how long I've been coming here. Perhaps some old-timers will continue the list I've started. I'm pretty sure it'll get damn long.

    So how do YOU want to decide which ones we should not allow? What's YOUR favourite level of censorship? Looking at the posts, many different people have many different answers.

    These topics generate as many if not more posts than "purist" techie articles. It makes me think that many people like them and many want them.

    If everyone posted to every tech article that they have no interest in then I suspect many tech articles would be swamped. No-one does, they just pass it by - I suspect some of the people asking for censorship have skipped a techie article or two because they weren't interested.

    Some people's views are so scary, aren't they?
  • I'm a nerd, and I enjoyed reading it. You obviously need to get out and do something besides computers...
  • it doesn't work like that, they believe in reincarnation, and that everyone will be a monk eventually. so the farmers support the monks, knowing that it will be their turn in the next life, or somesuch.
  • this is simply the chinese government attempting to destroy tibetan national identity. they had no universities before - because they didn't need them!
  • Jews
    by Anonymous Moron

    Haven't the Nazis killed all those guys yet.

    I'm kinda sick of hearing about them. There seems to be a hell of a lot of work done to save
    them, but I think its all a sham. I think that nothing is really happening.

  • IMHO /. might need more of a cultural/arts page. No one friggen does coding 24/7 and if they do they are dull as fungi.

    In h.s. and college there were many people I hung out with and we had definite common view of the world that included film/tech/music and how they all seemed to be coming together. And that was 20 years ago. Program in Assembler, listened to Bowie or Eno and went to see the movie ERASERHEAD.

    I see that trying to come out here. A high tech view of LIFE.

  • You know it bud. Crazy movie is right. Seeing it as a 16 yr old was a big wake up call to what might lie out there if you look for it - in any field.

    Can't say I loved it but it provided a different view than anything I'd seen up til then. Phreakin wild, man.

    Saw that in the local "art cinema" - remember we didn't have no Stinkin VCRs! It was showing along with "Night of the Living Dead". hehehe

    All the best,
  • seems to be a new stock plot device: disillusioned city dweller gets new purpose in life through political action aligned with religion, which gets them back in touch with a simpler, more rural life, and their true place in the universe.
    We had the same thing happen in this country too: a whole generation staked their entire being on the cause of pacifism and helping the oppressed and doubtlessly saintly monks and peasants of Southeast Asia. Disillusionment set in when the Vietnam war ended and there was no mass nudity in the streets, drugs weren't legalized, and we didn't live in peace and harmony as the Revolution broke out. Worse, we found that the working class actually supported the war (since their college education was being paid for by the GI Bill) and the newly Communist regimes were twice as bad as the old ones. We've been paying for this shortsightedness for 25 years.
    New Tibet is a tragedy. Old Tibet will never be again. A Po-Mo Tibet would simply be a high-priced mountain Disneyland, with spiritual inititions going out to the richest tourists, and Yak-in-the-Box franchises in every village.
    There's got to be a better way.
  • One thing that the anti-Chinese crowd never mentions about Tibet is that before the invasion there were very few schools and *no* universities in Tibet. Yes, the Chinese government is not particularly democratic (although no worse than many other governments, including the former theocratic government of Tibet), but because of the invasion, Tibetan youths have a chance to have a decent education. Would any one here enjoy being an illiterate peasant? Think about it.
  • "In Germany, first they came for the communists, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a communist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a Jew.
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a trade unionists.
    Then they came for the catholics and I didn't protest because I wasn't a catholic.
    Then they came from me -- and by that time there was nobody left to protest."

    I can't find the name of the guy who said this but it's a very famous quote.
  • This definitely falls under "stuff that mattes". Furthermore, you shouldn't limit "News for Nerds" to mean "news about computers". This is what's going on in the RealWorld(tm). It is "stuff that matters". And, above all, if you don't like it, don't read it. Maybe you should start an "anonymous coward anti-politics page" I promise never to browse by.

  • While I am not commenting directly on the movie, I would like to reply to those who don't believe that this is the correct "forum" for this type of news. Firstly, sengan prefaced the article sufficiently enough that any uninterested aprties could skip it. Secondly....get a life people! Culture, political issues, and commentary are the spice of life. If you only want straight-up tech news, go to Yahoo! News Tech section. As long as the _quality_ of the content is high, I applaud any new type of content in here.

    And yes, human rights are a nerd issue. Espcecially if you are a human nerd.
  • I remember a political cartoon on a similar theme- two scientists are staring out a window at a mushroom cloud, while a third angrily shouts at them:

    "The end of the world doesn't concern us! It's a social issue!"

    The point is, civil rights issues should be very important to people who could quite easily be involved in developing systems to either protect or abuse those issues.

  • By the review, it looks like a decent movie to see. Hollywood needs more of these types of movies, where when you leave the theater, you get more out of it then just "Wow, those special effects must have cost a fortune", and then simply forget about most of the movie the next day.
  • Some element for you :

    Sure there is university in Tibet (one I think, in Lhassa). In order to be selected you have to speak chinese and english so, you didn't learn tibetan in school !

    Cool. Just imagine, you are in the US and you have to learn say russian and french in order to go to the university. Do you really think, if your parents didn't speak neither russian nor french, you can go to the university ???

    Chinese say yes. Maybe you agree with them...

    Another element : University were not laic one but there was bouddhist university and you wasn't obliged to BECOME a bouddhist in ordrer to go. It was free...

    Think about it !
  • Haven't the chinese killed those guys yet?

    You've raised a good point. I'm involved with a non-profit foundation called Screw Tibet Now!, and we're working to see that those whining bastards get what they deserve. There's a very bright future ahead for that region, once we get all the undesirables out of the way. We're presently arbitrating talks between Disney and the Chinese government about the establishment of a LamaLand theme park, which will hopefully extend into Nepal as soon as that nation has been secured as well.

    Courage! There is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • THis is of intrest. News does not just have to be about the latest greatest line of code of whizbang gizmo. Also, though this was not the focus of the article, I think that this film is interesting from a tech standpoint because of how it was made, using relatively new technology to get around political forces that would not have allowed it's filming using traditional methods.
    Don't be so narrow. I agree the uninformes politacal rants are somewhat problematic, but hell, /. is a pretty cool resource, these people do it for no cost to us, and I think they deserve to indulge themselves sometimes. YOu can counter them, or ignore them. The posts sengen puts up you don't think belong here don't keep anything else form going up, and you do not have to read them. Excercise your ablity to not read stuff you don't want to read, I think youwill find it quite liberating.
    If it truly offends you, why not go start your own news for nerds site, and you can not post all the stuff you think should not be posted on such a site.
  • It's really too bad that you can't read, otherwise you would have seen the disclaimer at the end of the first paragraph. It's sad, really.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain