Security tight for Aspen screening of secret Tibetan film |

Security tight for Aspen screening of secret Tibetan film

John Colson

Aspen Filmfest patrons may be surprised to see security guards with wands and night-vision goggles checking out the crowd in the darkened theater early next month.

But the high-security atmosphere will all be due to the sensitive nature of a film to be shown on the afternoon of Oct. 2.

The film, “What Remains of Us,” was filmed secretly in Tibet by an exiled Tibetan woman, without the permission of the Chinese government that has controlled and, in the eyes of pro-Tibetan activists, viciously oppressed the people of Tibet since invading the country in 1951.

Filmmakers Francios Prevost and Hugo Latulippe, along with the woman, Kalsang Dolma, who decided to literally risk her life to make the film, say high security is necessary to protect the people they filmed from retribution by the Chinese rulers.

Therefore, patrons are asked to not bring cameras, cell phones, handbags or backpacks to the screening at the Wheeler Opera House. The request is printed in the Filmfest program, which was inserted into the Sept. 16 Aspen Times, and ticket buyers will be reminded of the request at the box office window.

Dolma, 32, currently lives in Montreal, but was born in India of Tibetan parents who fled the Chinese occupation.

She emphasized that she is not a trained filmmaker. “This is the first time ever” that she has been involved in such work, she said. Before meeting the two filmmakers in 1997, she was studying traditional Tibetan music and singing.

Prevost and Latulippe were looking for an interpreter who spoke French and Tibetan, and she fit the bill. After working together for a while, she and Prevost fell in love, but that has taken a back seat to their work with the film, which was hatched after Dolma met the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled leader.

“We would like to be settled like normal people, but we are always on the road,” she said lightly in a telephone interview.

For example, just before she comes to the Aspen screening (she is always present for screenings, to make sure things are handled as the producers wish), she will be in Taiwan, the tiny island nation that is claimed by China.

That, she conceded, makes her a little nervous, but not overly anxious, because she feels the Taiwanese and the Tibetans share a common bond ” the desire for freedom from Chinese control.

Dolma explained that when she interviewed the Dalai Lama in 2000, he ended their talk with an extemporaneous message to the Tibetans who remain in Tibet, after asking Dolma if she would deliver it.

In the wake of that singular moment, one of the directing team went to Tibet on a separate project and came back with the feeling that “there was something wrong in Tibet, even though the Tibetans were smiling” and outwardly appeared content, Dolma said.

Dolma and the producers of “What Remains Of Us” decided she would have to go to Tibet, show the Dalai Lama’s message to as many Tibetans as possible, and film the reactions “as a Tibetan, born in exile, going for the first time [to] her country.”

Although it was dangerous, given that people are alleged to disappear or be killed outright for small infractions in Tibet all the time, Dolma said, “I am doing this for my country. And I really think it’s important,” particularly for the generation of youth who she said are growing up without realizing they are Tibetan or that the Chinese occupation is anything but the normal state of affairs.

“We have to keep hope. Without hope, there is no point in being,” she declared. “I hope they will somehow have access to our culture, our traditions.”

“What Remains Of Us” will be shown at 1 p.m. on Oct. 2. Aspen Filmfest will run from Sept. 28 through Oct. 2, with screenings in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

John Colson works for the Aspen Times. He can be contacted at

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