Tibetan film-maker, Dhondup Wangchen has recently become an official case of AI. He was detained in March 2008 after he and his assistant, Golog Jigme finished filming for the documentary, Leaving Fear Behind (Jigdrel). Here’s the synopsis of the film:

What do Tibetans in Tibet think about the Beijing Olympic Games?

This documentary examines this question and a lot more besides. For five months, from October 2007 to March 2008, amateur filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen and his monk cameraman, Golok Jigme, secretly filmed in Tibet. They were both arrested at the end of March after the protests erupted, but not before they had managed to smuggle their tapes safely to Switzerland.

The filmmakers were detained soon after sending their tapes out, and remain in detention today.

Shot primarily in the eastern provinces of Tibet, the film provides a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people and their longstanding resentment of Chinese policies in Tibet.

The filmmakers traversed thousands of miles, asking ordinary Tibetans what they really feel about the Dalai Lama, China, and the Olympic Games. The filmmakers gave their subjects the option of covering their faces, but almost all of the 108 people interviewed agreed to have their faces shown on film, so strong was their desire to express themselves to the world. Excerpts from twenty of the interviews, including a self-recorded interview of the filmmaker himself.

In total, Dhondup Wangchen and Golog Jigme gathered 35 hours of footage. The footage was smuggled out of Tibet to Dhondup Wangchen’s cousin, Gyaljong Tsetrin in Switzerland for editing.

Through a phone call to a relative, Dhondup Wangchen said he was tortured while in detention. His family has not been allowed to see him. In July 2009, AI issued an Urgent Action for him as he was awaiting trial for “inciting separatism” in Xining city, the capital of Qinghai province in western China. His family-appointed lawyers, who are based in Beijing, were told to drop the case because of a new rule that only permits lawyers based in the province where a case has been filed to take it up. Violations of the rule will be punished by revoking lawyers’ professional license. There is however no such limitation in China’s law on lawyers.

AI has been given permission to distribute the film for non-commercial purposes. Unfortunately, it is only available in the PAL standard. I hope I have the right software to convert it to NTSC. In the mean time, here’s the internet version of the film with English subtitles.

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