The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom

Film | 2009 | 79 minutes

a film by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam

a White Crane Films production
in association with
Arch Communications, GmbH, Austria
Roland Films, USA
France 5 Television
BOS Holland

Executive Producers
Francesca von Habsburg
Lavinia Currier

Graham Day
Jaimie Gramston
Tenzing Sonam
Stephen McCarthy
John Sergeant
Dilip Varma
Tenzin Tsetan Choklay

Gustavo Santaolalla
(Oscar-winning composer of
Brokeback Mountain and Babel)

Anupama Chandra
Mahadeb Shi

“Among other things, this film not only shows the situation in Tibet, the confrontation between the police and monks, the confrontation between the police and the public, but it also shows what is happening in the hearts of the Tibetan people. The film presents the opinions of different people, including the younger generation who very often have opinions that are different from the Dalai Lama. They believe that Tibet should be completely independent. This is a very unusual insight into the situation in Tibet, which, to my own great joy, has been of interest to me for a long time.”
Vaclav Havel, on presenting the Vaclav Havel Award at the One World International Film Festival in Prague

Fifty years have passed since the takeover of Tibet by China. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and temporal leader, has lived in exile for most of his life, trying to find a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue by giving up the goal of independence in an attempt to reach a compromise with China. But his efforts have failed to yield any positive outcome, and his people are becoming more frustrated.

March 2008. Tibet erupts as the biggest uprising since China took control in 1959, spreads across the country. The Tibetan people, for one brief moment, demonstrate to the world their unhappiness under Chinese rule and their desire for freedom. But China cracks down hard on the protests. It is also the year of the Beijing Olympics.

Even as the unrest spreads in Tibet, exile Tibetans in India, frustrated by the lack of political progress, set out on a march back to their homeland, convinced that this is the only action they can take to support their countrymen.

This is a year of dramatic possibilities for Tibet. Will the marchers make it back to Tibet? Will the world stand firm in its support of Tibet even as China prepares for its biggest coming-out party? Can the Dalai Lama finally achieve a breakthrough in his efforts to negotiate a settlement with China and silence the growing voices of dissent among his own people? Can his strategy of non-violence and compromise based on his Buddhist beliefs finally find success?

In The Sun Behind the Clouds, Tibetan filmmaker, Tenzing Sonam, and his partner, Ritu Sarin, take a uniquely Tibetan perspective on the trials and tribulations of the Dalai Lama and his people as they continue their struggle for freedom in the face of determined suppression by one of the world’s biggest and most powerful nations. The filmmakers had intimate access to the Dalai Lama and followed him over the course of an eventful year, which included the 2008 protests in Tibet, the international response to it, the Beijing Olympics, and the breakdown in talks between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.

Set against this backdrop, the film explores the interplay between the personal and the historic, spirituality and politics, and the tension between the Dalai Lama’s efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the Tibet situation based on compromise and dialogue, and the impatience of a younger generation of Tibetans who are ready to take a more confrontational course.

Film Festivals (partial list):
Tromso International Film Festival, Norway
This Human World, Vienna
3rd Kerala International Documentary and Short Film Festival
Best Feature Documentary
Washington DC International Film Festival
Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Audience Award
Minneapolis-St Paul International Film Festival
Best of the Fest
IFI Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Film Festival, Dublin, Ireland
Films de Femmes, Creteil, France
Prix du Public (Audience Award)
Human Rights Watch Film Festival, London
Closing Night Film
One World International Film Festival, Prague
Vaclav Havel Award and the Rudolf Vrba Award
Mumbai International Film Festival
Silver Conch Award
Palm Springs International Film Festival
Best of the Fest
Theatrical Release:
USA (2010), Premiere at the Film Forum, New York