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Free Screenings of Tibetan Filmmaker Pema Tseden at Asia Society

Asia Society, Columbia University-Modern Tibetan Studies, Trace Foundation, Maysles Institute, and Kham Film Project present:

April 10 & 15, 2010 **Filmmaker Pema Tseden Q&A on April 10th** Screenings at Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Avenue at 70th Street, NYC

The Search (dir. Pema Tseden)

Asia Society, Columbia University-Modern Tibetan Studies, Trace Foundation, Maysles Institute, and Kham Film Project present the ground-breaking work of filmmaker Pema Tseden (Wanma Caidan in Chinese), who has emerged as the outstanding cinematic voice of Tibet. Hailing from the Tibetan area of Amdo (Qinghai) and trained at the prestigious Beijing Film Academy where he was its first ever Tibetan student, Pema Tseden has made award-winning films that meditate on the meaning of culture and tradition in contemporary life, with Tibet as his canvas. The Tibet in his films is not the one that has been exoticized in Western cinema, or promoted as an epic example of progress and modernization in Chinese film. Instead, he has created a raw, observant, and tender film language to show the detailed tapestry of contemporary Tibetan experiences. Pema Tseden speaks of his art in relation to the traditional Tibetan aesthetic of the thangka or scroll paintings: “they’re like a panorama: all the stories are in one picture.”

This two-film series includes free screenings of Pema Tseden’s new film The Search (2009) and feature debut The Silent Holy Stones (2005) at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue (E 70 Street), New York City. Pema Tseden will be available in New York for interviews between now and April 15, 2010.

Free admission. Limit to two per person. Ticket registration available at or in-person at Asia Society. To purchase tickets or for more information, please call (212) 517-ASIA or visit

Program and further details after the break.

PROGRAM SCHEDULE (films in Tibetan Amdo dialect with English subtitles)

The Search (‘Tshol) Saturday, April 10, 2010, 3:30PM. Q&A with filmmaker. 2009. 112 min. HDCAM.

A Tibetan film director travels from village to village looking for actors to star in a film based on the Tibetan opera Prince Drimé Kundun, a quintessentially Buddhist legend about compassion and self-sacrifice. Traveling by car, the director holds auditions in the unlikely but all-pervasive contexts of contemporary Tibetan life – in building sites, streets, bars, night clubs, and monasteries. Exercising formalistic restraint with a contemplative pace and unique camera placement, Pema Tseden has made a road movie that takes the viewer straight into the heart of a changing Tibet, raising penetrating questions about what identity means in the modern world. This film is the first ever film made in Tibet to be shot entirely with a Tibetan crew in the Tibetan language, with production support from renowned Chinese 5th Generation filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang.

“a charming …film within a film … with easy grace [and] a meditative aesthetic” Giovanna Fulvi, Toronto International Film Festival “an offbeat cultural album of Tibetan people as well as a cinematic pilgrimage to understand their lifestyles and religious heritage.” – Maggie Lee, The Hollywood Reporter The Search is literally a journey through new Tibet.” – Louisa Lim, All Things Considered, NPR “most exciting and unexpected … discovery of an important new film.” – Chris Berry, Senses of Cinema

Key Festivals: Toronto International Film Festival Bangkok International Film Festival – Special Jury Prize Shanghai International Film Festival – Jury Grand Prix Locarno Film Festival Vancouver International Film Festival

The Silent Holy Stones (Lhing ‘jags kyi ma ni rdo ‘bum) Thursday, April 15, 2010, 6:45PM. Introduction by Professor Robert Barnett, Columbia University. 2005. 102 min. 35mm.

A child monk prepares to travel home from his monastery to spend the Tibetan New Year with his family. The villagers are rehearsing their annual staging of a traditional Tibetan opera but the little monk is more interested in the comic-religious television series Journey to the West. When he returns to the monastery, he hopes to watch the drama on television along with the monastery’s trulku (reincarnated lama), also a child, during their free time, but after one day is left with just a plastic monkey mask. The intricate and comedic balancing of study in the monastery with traditional opera in the village and Chinese drama on television brings to life the Tibetans’ seamless interweaving of tradition and globalization. Speaking as the chair of the Jury at the Pusan International Film Festival, renowned Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami praised Pema Tseden’s directorial debut and described it as in the tradition of Bresson and Ozu.

“A beautifully observed, very well-made and touching first feature … that deals with the subject of cultural change with remarkable subtlety” – Jury, International Film Critics Federation Prize, 2006 “simple but impressive and very human” – Wu Tianming, renowned Chinese director, President of the Jury, Changchun Film Festival The Silent Holy Stones has the immediacy of a documentary, delivering real insight into the evolution of a much-romanticized culture…” – Aaron Lazenby, San Francisco Film Festival, 2006

Key Festivals:

Golden Rooster Awards – Best Directorial Debut Shanghai International Film Festival – Asian New Talent Award Changchun Film Festival – Special Jury Award Hong Kong International Film Festival – International Film Critics Federation prize (FIPRESCI) San Francisco International Film Festival

Support for this program is provided, in part, by The Henry Luce Foundation, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, and Center on U.S.-China Relations.

About Pema Tsedan (Wanma Caidan in Chinese)

Pema Tsedan, writer, director, male, was born in 1969 in Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai province. Son of Tibetan nomads, Pema Tsedan is the only one of three siblings to have finished his schooling. He studied Tibetan Language and Literature at the Northwest University and has worked as a primary school teacher and a civil servant. He returned to school as an older student at China’s most prestigious film school, Beijing Film Academy, receiving a scholarship from the Trace Foundation. As a writer, Pema Tsedan has published novels and essays widely. As a filmmaker, he has made two features to date. His films have been recognized internationally but most notably for garnering top honors in China including a Golden Rooster Best Directorial Debut Award (for The Silent Holy Stones) and a Shanghai International Film Festival Jury Grand Prix (for The Search).


  1. The Silent Holy Stones (2003) – short/fiction

  2. A Day of the Little Living Buddha (2003) – short/fiction

  3. The Grassland (2004) – short/documentary

  4. Love Story (2005) – documentary

  5. The Silent Holy Stones (2005) – feature/fiction

  6. The Search (2009) – feature/fiction


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