DIFF, Burning and The Sweet Requiem

Welcome to our revamped website! Our son, Mila, overhauled the website after being constantly harried by us to make minor changes on the older version. It’s now more elegant, user-friendly and easier to maintain. Thank you Mila! And here’s a shameless plug in case you need a website designed: Mila Samdub

We’re taking advantage of its launch to post a long-overdue update.

DIFF 2015 autorickshaws
DIFF 2015 Autorickshaws on duty

After the successful conclusion of the 4th edition of DIFF in early November last year, we turned our focus to our first solo art exhibition at Khoj Studios in New Delhi. Held over most of December, this was the first time several of our video installations were presented in one venue and under a broad thematic rubric. It comprised a selection of works that investigates both Tibet’s ongoing political struggle and the transformations that we see in the Himalayan region that we live in. The title of the exhibition – Burning Against the Dying of the Light – referred to the centrepiece of the show, a new multimedia installation which examines and contextualizes the politics of protest in Tibet, especially in their latest manifestation – self-immolations.

Wheel close-up 2
Close-up of The Wheel of Light and Darkness

The show was well received by both the public and the art world and was widely covered by the media. Thank you Khoj, for supporting our work and organising the show.

Burning Khoj team
With the Khoj team and our Production Assistant Vitor Carvalho

One component of the Burning installation, a piece entitled Last Words, was invited to the Dhaka Art Summit as part of a group exhibition – Mining Warm Data – curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt. The work consists of five facsimiles of five last messages written by the self-immolators in Tibet, along with their English translations. When the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh saw Last Words, he demanded that the work be removed immediately or he would have the entire summit shut down. Given China’s economic clout in Bangladesh, the organisers were in a quandary and we finally decided to have the offending work covered up rather than removed entirely, as demanded. The fiasco went viral and generated a huge amount of publicity, and ended up having the opposite effect of what the Chinese Ambassador had intended. As art critic Rosalyn D’Mello commented in the Huffington Post: “Expectedly, though possibly to the dismay of the Chinese Ambassador, despite being positioned as a compromise, the paper shroud that veils each individual photo and text constituting Last Words has subversively endowed the work with an even more provocative aura.” Nevertheless, the incident served as a reminder of how China seeks to control the discourse on Tibet, wherever and however it manifests itself.

Last words
Last Words at Khoj
Last Words (Covered)
Last Words covered up at the Dhaka Art Summit

Burning Against the Dying of the Light has been invited by curator Natasha Ginwala to show as part of the Contour Biennale in the town of Mechelen in March 2017. We are working to evolve some of the concepts that we were exploring in this work and to refashion the central kinetic sculpture that the exhibition hinges around. We will also present a new video work that looks specifically at the legacy of the Singing Nuns of Drapchi Prison, a number of whom have relocated to Belgium, and their connection to the current phase of self-immolation protests in Tibet.

With Natasha Ginwala and fellow artists in Mechelen

Meanwhile, we have been slowly but determinedly pushing ahead with our feature film, The Sweet Requiem. After we got into the Drishyam-Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab in Goa in March last year, the script has undergone several major revisions and we feel that it is now as good as it has ever been. In October we were in Busan as part of the Asian Project Market and in November in Goa at the Film Bazaar.

T&R at APM (close)
Pitching at the Asian Project Market in Busan
With Shrihari at Film Bazaar
With Producer Shrihari Sathe at Film Bazaar, Goa

We had numerous promising meetings but none that turned into something concrete. We began to understand that trying to get financing for a Tibetan-language film, particularly in the context of a climate where China exerts an inordinate amount of influence globally, even in the cultural sphere, was a much more difficult proposition than we had bargained for. But we remain undeterred and are very fortunate to have New York-based producer Shrihari Sathe as part of our team. Together we are stubbornly exploring alternative sources of funding so that we can get the film made. If you have any fund-raising ideas or want to support the project in any way, please get in touch. You can also make a tax deductible donation on our website. At this stage of the game, every little bit helps!

The Sweet Requiem

That’s it for the moment. Don’t forget that the 5th edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival will take place from 3 to 6 November. Do try and make it!

With best wishes from Dharamshala –

Ritu and Tenzing