Former Prisoner of Conscience Releases Film, Tibet in SongSeptember 23, 2010
Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan entho-musicologist and Fulbright Scholar, set out to make a film about traditional Tibetan music and dance. A year later, he was wrongly convicted of “espionage and counter-revolutionary activities.” China announced that he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. The trial was closed, and no evidence has ever been made public.
Ngawang Choephel was held in Powo Tramo prison and was reported to be in poor health, suffering from ”bronchitis, hepatitis and respiratory infections”.
Choephel’s conviction and imprisonment spurred an outcry from human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International. Many wrote letters pleading for his release as Amnesty considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.
These efforts paid off at last in January 2002, when Choephel was granted his freedom, after serving more than six years in Chinese prisons. “You just can’t believe he got out,” said Kate Lazarus, Amnesty’s Tibet specialist, who met Choephel soon after his arrival. “You dream and you hope that these people will be released, but you never know.”
At the time of his detention he had been gathering material for the production of a documentary film about traditional Tibetan performing arts.
The documentary he was working on prior to his arrest in China is finally being released in the U.S. on September 24th. Tibet in Song is a feature length documentary that celebrates traditional Tibetan folk music and encompasses a harrowing journey into the past fifty years of cultural repression inside Chinese controlled Tibet.
Director and former Tibetan political prisoner, Ngawang Choephel, weaves a story of beauty, pain, brutality and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film. Ngawang Choephel sets the stage for a unique exploration of the Chinese impact on Tibetans inside Tibet.
What follows is a heartbreaking tale of cultural exploitation and resistance, which includes Ngawangs’ own eventual imprisonment for recording the very songs at the center of the film. Tibet in Song provides raw and uncensored look at Tibet as it stands today, a country plagued by Chinese brutality, yet willing to fight for the existence of its unique cultural heritage.
The film has debuted to wide critical acclaim, winning the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize Documentary Award, the 2009 Calgary International Film Festival Best Documentary Award, among many others.
We highly recommend this beautiful and important film. We encourage you to not only help support our dear friend Ngawang, but also to raise awareness about his important film, and the importance of preserving and respecting world cultures and promoting artistic freedom.