He was seventeen years old at the time of filming and had never set foot in his country, but Tibet’s teenaged king in exile would still be a much more enlightened ruler than the occupying Chinese military and their puppets. Namgyal Wangchuk Trichen Lhagyari is a student, who lives like many Tibetan refuges in India, but in addition to being a king, he is also a filmmaker. Namgyal Wangchuk, the 18th Trichen Lhagyari documents his life and the living conditions of other Tibetan exiles in My Country is Tibet (trailer here), produced by his mentor Dirk Simon, which premieres this Sunday on New York’s Thirteen, as part of the BYkids showcase of youthful filmmakers.
Student, filmmaker, and nice kid—that would be a pretty good place for most teens to start at, but Namgyal Wangchuk is not like typical high school students. He was officially crowned as the King of Tibet, by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. His father, the 17th Trichen Lhagyari, spent over twenty years in a Communist prison cell. After his release, the reigning Dharma King heeded the Dalai Lama’s advice and sought asylum for his family in India.
For the record, Tibet’s Dharma King does not seem to be the sort of centralized potentate one might imagine. After all, the 17th Trichen Lhagyari was also elected to several terms in the exiled government’s parliament. Regardless, 18 clearly feels a responsibility for his people, even while he washes his own clothes in his family’s modest home.
With the help of Simon, Trichen Lhagyari 18 also explains the efforts of the expatriate Tibetan community to preserve their language and culture. Frankly, the extent of the Communist Party’s cultural ethnic cleansing is horrific, but grassroots organizations like the Rajpur Tibetan Refugee Factory persevere nobly.