The initial inspiration for the film came from an incident in September 2006 on the 5,800-metre Nangpa-La Pass on the Tibet-Nepal border. Chinese border guards opened fire on a group of Tibetans attempting to escape to India and shot dead a 17-year-old nun and injured several others.
This cold-blooded killing, which was captured on video by a Romanian mountain climber, raised many questions in our minds: Who were these escapees and what was their journey like? Why, after nearly 60 years of Chinese occupation, were Tibetans still risking their lives to escape to India? Why were so many of them children? And what happened to them after they made it to India?
Meanwhile, the larger political situation in Tibet has continued to simmer at a critical point. Despite the desperation and magnitude of the ongoing struggle – since 2009, more than 150 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet in protest against Chinese rule – the world remains largely disinterested or ignorant of what is transpiring in Tibet.
The Sweet Requiem is an attempt to weave together these disparate strands of the current Tibetan situation – both in exile and in Tibet – through an intimate and personal story that is part psycho-political thriller and part escape drama. At the same time, it is an exploration of the themes of exile, memory and guilt, and the unexpected consequences of the choices we make in life. It is a tale of suffering and forgiving, of deep inner anguish and the desperate need of the exile to find redemption and closure. In this, the story transcends its specific context and touches upon universal concerns.
Dolkar, a 26-year-old exile Tibetan, lives in Delhi. 18 years ago, she escaped from Tibet with her father, making a perilous trek across the Himalayas that ended in tragedy. Dolkar has suppressed all recollection of that traumatic incident. But when she unexpectedly encounters Gompo, the guide who abandoned them during their journey, memories of her escape are reignited and she is propelled on an obsessive search for retribution and closure.
Following Gompo through the claustrophobic alleys of the Tibetan refugee settlement in Delhi, Dolkar discovers that Gompo faces his own personal crisis. Flashbacks of her desperate journey with a small group through a harsh and desolate Himalayan terrain punctuate her growing predicament in the present.
Caught in a web of political intrigue that is much larger than her private quest, Dolkar must reconcile Gompo’s act of treachery with the life-or-death situation he now faces. The two stories moving in tandem, both determined by a series of fateful choices, reach their conclusion as Dolkar and Gompo finally confront each other.
Tenzin Dolker plays the role of Dolkar. She was born in a Tibetan refugee settlement in South India. A dancer, yoga instructor and photographer, The Sweet Requiem is her acting debut.
Jampa Kalsang is one of the most experienced Tibetan actors in exile and has acted in a number of Tibetan films, including Ritu and Tenzing’s first feature, Dreaming Lhasa. He plays the role of Gompo. He is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Producer & Co-Director Ritu Sarin and Writer & Co-Director Tenzing Sonam have been making films for over thirty years. Their films are mostly documentaries but also include a number of video installations and two narrative features – Dreaming Lhasa (2006) and now, The Sweet Requiem. The majority of their work has focused on the subject of Tibet and has attempted to document, question and reflect on the issues of exile, identity, culture and politics that confront the Tibetan people. As artists and filmmakers closely connected to Tibet, they believe strongly that they have a responsibility to give voice to the Tibetan freedom struggle. Their films, many of which are in the Tibetan language, have been at the forefront of developing a new cinematic culture among the exile Tibetan community.
Producer Shrihari Sathe is a New York-based director and producer. He is the director of 1000 Rupee Note (Ek Hazarachi Note, 2014) and has produced/co-produced several films including Mafak (2018), A Woman, A Part (2016), Dukhtar (2014), Sunrise (2014) and It Felt Like Love (2013).
DoP David McFarland has photographed projects all over the world. His credits include: Mafak (2018), The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017), The Boy Next Door (2015), The Rambler (2013), Baytown Outlaws (2012) and The Black Tulip (2010).
Production Designer Aradhana Seth's credits include The Hungry (2017), Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), Vara: A Blessing (2013), West is West (2010), Don (2006), Earth (1999) and Fire (1996). She worked as Art Director on The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Bourne Supremacy (2004)and Stiff Upper Lips (1998).
Music Composer Michael Montes is a composer writing for films, album projects and all other media. Recent film scores include Don't Leave Home, The Sweet Requiem, Brigsby Bear (Additional Music) and Always Shine.
Since we made our first fiction feature film more than ten years ago, it hasn’t got any easier to find funding to make a Tibetan film. If anything, the landscape of independent filmmaking has changed dramatically; the space for making films like ours – about marginalised cultures in unfamiliar languages – has shrunk tremendously. Additionally, the growing international influence of China in the cultural sphere and its readiness to apply pressure to control the discourse over its actions in places like Tibet has given rise to a culture of self-censorship that makes it even more difficult to raise funds for films like ours.
But with the support and dedication of our producing partner Shrihari Sathe and an incredible team of cast and crew, we’ve made The Sweet Requiem against all odds and on a shoestring budget. Friends, family and supporters have all chipped in to ensure that we’ve been able to reach this stage. And all this hard work has paid off. The Sweet Requiem will have its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival!
This is a wonderful launch pad for the film and we need to take full advantage of it in order to ensure that it goes out into the world and reaches as many people as possible. To do this, we urgently need funds to prepare the final master for the festival premiere. We need funds to make the poster and the publicity materials and to hire a good publicist without whom the film will disappear in the noise of Toronto. We need your support at this final stage. Together, we can lay another milestone in the continuing journey of Tibetan cinema.
Please check out the incredible Rewards we're offering in the column at the right!
Manuel Bauer images
Renowned Swiss photographer Manuel Bauer specializes in long-term projects. He has a deep bond with Tibet and has extensively photographed the Dalai Lama. In 1995, he followed a father and his daughter on their dangerous 22-day trek from Lhasa to Dharamsala in India. These photographs are from that journey and are a part of the exhibition and book, Escape From Tibet. https://manuelbauer.ch/
Tenzing Dakpa images
Tenzin Dakpa is one of a new generation of exile Tibetan photographers. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, his works explore themes of exile and alienation. The photographs here are a part of his ongoing project, Periphery. http://tenzingdakpa.com/
Tenzin Dorjee images
Tenzin Dorjee is the best-known and one of the first professionally trained Tibetan photographers in exile. He studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US. Over the years he has documented various aspects of the Tibetan dispora. These photographs are from his Exile series. https://www.facebook.com/Tenzin-Dorjee-photography-1392326287696969/
Pablo Bartholomew stills from The Sweet Requiem (*Project image photo also by Pablo Bartholomew*)
One of India’s most famous photographers, Pablo Bartholomew is the winner of the World Press Photo award for his series on morphine addicts in India (1975), and the World Press Photo of the Year award for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984). He is the recipient of the Padma Shri Award, one of India’s highest civilian honours, and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France. These photographs are from Pablo’s shoot during the production of The Sweet Requiem. http://www.pablobartholomew.com/
Tenzing Paljor images
Tenzing Paljor is a self-taught Tibetan photographer. He has dedicated his work to the documentation of endangered cultures and societies, particularly those in the Himalaya. The two photographs here were taken in Taktsang Lhamo Kirti Monastery, Amdo, Eastern Tibet, in 2015. https://www.tenzingpaljor.com/tenzing-paljor.php
Tenzing Rigdol images
Tenzing Rigdol is a contemporary Tibetan artist whose work ranges from painting, sculpture, drawing and collage, to digital, video-installation, performance art and site specific pieces. He has been widely exhibited internationally and his artworks are included in public and private collections around the world. In 2014, Rigdol became one of only two contemporary Tibetan artists to be included in the exhibition Tibet and India: New Beginnings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He is represented by Rossi & Rossi, London & Hong Kong. (http://rossirossi.com/contemporaryartist/tenzing-rigdol/)
JOURNEY OF MY TEACHER (23/25)
TIBETAN ROAD BUILDERS: SHOVEL SONGS (22/35)
Risks and challenges
There are a few rewards that involve our directors/producers/cast, who are very much in-demand working professionals. And though we are committed to this film it's possible that scheduling these Rewards with Backers may be challenging with our unpredictable day-to-day lives. We pledge to do our absolute best though to deliver those specfic Rewards on time. We appreciate your patience and flexibility in this!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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