Windhorse

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Clearly designed as an appeal to Western audiences, Academy Award-winning documentarian Paul Wagner's first dramatic feature is nevertheless an engaging and admirable piece of political filmmaking. In 1979, as three Tibetan children -- Dorjee (Deepak Tserin), his sister Dolkar (Tenzin Pema) and their cousin Pema (Pasang Dolma) --- play in their small mountain...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Clearly designed as an appeal to Western audiences, Academy Award-winning documentarian Paul Wagner's first dramatic feature is nevertheless an engaging and admirable piece of political filmmaking. In 1979, as three Tibetan children -- Dorjee (Deepak Tserin), his

sister Dolkar (Tenzin Pema) and their cousin Pema (Pasang Dolma) --- play in their small mountain village, Chinese officers break into their grandfather's home and shoot him through the head for posting an anti-Chinese poster. Eighteen years later, Dorjee (Jampa Kelsang), Dolkar (Dagdon) and their

family have relocated to the bustling Tibetan city of Lhasa, while Pema (the actress's name, along with those of many other Tibetans involved in the film, has been withheld for her own protection) has entered a Buddhist nunnery. Their lives reflect the fortunes of many Tibetans living under

Chinese oppression: Dorjee is an angry drunk who rebuffs his friend Lobsang's urging to become involved in the Free Tibet movement. Dolkar, now an aspiring pop star, allows herself to be remodeled into an icon of Chinese propaganda -- the smiling face of Tibetan youth grateful to have been

liberated by Chairman Mao. Pema's fate is far worse: She's arrested in the Lhasa marketplace for chanting pro-Tibetan slogans and brutally tortured. The film looks muddy (an unavoidable result of its having been shot clandestinely on video, then transferred to 35 mm) and has none of the technical

polish of Hollywood's recent films about Tibet. It is, however, sharply edited and tightly plotted. Wagner and his co-screenwriters Thupten Tsering and Julia Elliot (Wagner's niece, whose experiences in Tibet served as the basis for the film) do a very good job of incorporating real-life incidents

into their narrative, contextualizing them into a broader cultural matrix and bringing to vivid life an untenable (and, for many Westerners, confusing) situation.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Clearly designed as an appeal to Western audiences, Academy Award-winning documentarian Paul Wagner's first dramatic feature is nevertheless an engaging and admirable piece of political filmmaking. In 1979, as three Tibetan children -- Dorjee (Deepak Tseri… (more)

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