Monday, March 28, 2022

Never Forget Tibet, The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story

The world's most celebrated advocate of non-violence is also technically the most wanted fugitive. The Chinese Communist Party still calls him a criminal, but the world knows Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama as a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. However, hardly anyone would have known him at all were it not for Har Mander Singh, an officer with the Indian Frontier Administrative Service. His Holiness reunites with the man who safely escorted him to his new home-in-exile in Jean-Paul Mertinez’s documentary, Never Forget Tibet, The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story, which has a special nationwide Fathom Events screening this Thursday.

Technically, the Dalai Lama’s 1959 escape was his second try. Frankly, he tried to reach some kind of accommodation with the CCP, but they were determined to dominate the Tibetan nation. When the PLA started shelling Lhasa, His Holiness was already gone, but his party was not sure where their journey would end.

Fortunately, Singh was posted to Bomdila. Even though Nehru agreed to extend asylum to His Holiness, communication was still pretty spotty. Singh stuck his neck out a little protecting the Dalai Lama’s party once he crossed the border, but his initiative was vindicated—and appreciated by His Holiness, whom the Singhs personally hosted like family.

Mertinez’s documentary largely follows
An Officer and His Holiness, a nonfiction account written by Singh’s niece Rani, a British journalist. Her uncle passed away in 2020, but Mertinez filmed his visit to Dharamshala, for an emotional final meeting with His Holiness.

There is also some new historical material in
Never Forget Tibet, including detail on the flight from Lhasa and the secret correspondence between the Dalai Lama, Nehru, and Harold Macmillan. It is an amazing historical episode, but Mertinez tells it in a restrained manner. Frankly, sometimes the energy level could have been raised a tad, without compromising the historical integrity.

Never Forget Tibet helps humanize an icon, His Holiness, while providing context on his relationship with his Indian hosts. It is more complicated than we might have assumed, because of India’s up-and-down diplomatic relations with Mainland China.

The Dalai Lama is the star, but there is also insight provided by several other interesting Tibetan figures, including Tendzin Choegyal, His Holiness’s third brother (also a reincarnated Lama), Rinchen Khando Choegyal, his sister-in-law and founder of the Tibetan Nuns Project, and Lobsang Sangay, the former Sikyong (secular head) of the Tibetan government in exile. Plus,
Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville provides the classy narration.

Viewers can learn a lot from this film. The CCP would like you to ignore it, as they try to bury or censor any mention of the Dalai Lama. As usual, His Holiness has wisdom that applies well beyond the circumstances of his exile. Highly recommended,
Never Forget Tibet, The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story screens nationwide this Thursday (3/31), via Fathom Events, including the AMC Empire in New York.