Remembering Pema Tseden: A Retrospective

A pioneer of contemporary Tibetan-language cinema, Pema Tsedan (1969–2023) sheds a light on everyday life in Tibet and breaks the ethnic stereotype throughout his work. His ability to convey individual spirit in the face of a gradually modernizing society through his impeccable visual composition distinguishes him as a remarkable voice in contemporary world cinema.

Beginning his filmmaking career in 2002, Pema Tsedan became the first ethnic Tibetan director in China to shoot his films entirely in the Tibetan language. He has made 8 feature films and published over 50 short stories and novels in Tibetan and Chinese and has been a great champion of discovering and nurturing emerging film talents. In 2022, we brought One and Four to New York, a film he produced and directed by his son Jigme Trinley.

In keeping with CineCina’s mission to showcase the diverse narratives and intergenerational legacies of Asian filmmakers, we invite you to attend our special screenings celebrating Pema Tseden’s life and honoring his contributions to Tibetan cinema and the world of cinema.

Tharlo ཐར་ལོ།

Friday, August 25 | 7 – 9 pm EDT

Scandinavia House 58 Park Avenue New York, NY 10016

Tharlo ཐར་ལོ།

Pema Tseden | 2015

China | 123 minutes | Tibetan with English subtitles

Tharlo lives a simple life in rural Tibet. A 40-year-old shepherd who can recite extensive passages from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book from memory, Tharlo, nicknamed “Ponytail,” rarely interacts with other people. But when he travels to town for an ID card and meets a modern young hairdresser, their relationship threatens to upend the life he knows.

Old Dog ཁྱི་རྒན།

Friday, August 18 | 7 – 8:30 pm EDT

Scandinavia House 58 Park Avenue New York, NY 10016

Old Dog ཁྱི་རྒན།

Pema Tseden | 2011

China | 88 minutes | Tibetan with English subtitles

The Tibetan nomad mastiff is an exotic prize dog in China, potentially fetching millions of dollars from wealthy Chinese buyer. When a young man named Gonpo notices several thefts of mastiffs from Tibetan farm families, he decides to sell his family’s dog before it is stolen and sold on the black market. His father, an aging Tibetan herder, is furious when he discovers the dog missing. He sets off to buy the dog back, sparking a series of events that threaten to tear the family apart. Weaving together narrative strands of humor and gravity, Old Dog beautifully depicts life among the rural Tibetan people and the erosion of Tibetan culture under the pressures of contemporary society.

Jinpa + The Silent Holy Stones (Short)

Friday, July 7 | 7 – 9 pm EDT

Scandinavia House 58 Park Avenue New York, NY 10016

JINPA ལག་དམར།

Pema Tseden | 2019

China | 87 minutes | Tibetan with English subtitles

On the path of life, sometimes we meet someone whose dreams overtake our own to the point that they converge. This is a story of revenge and redemption. On an isolated road passing through the vast barren plains of Tibet, a truck driver who has accidentally run over a sheep chances upon a young man who is hitching a ride. As they drive and chat, the truck driver notices that his new friend has a silver dagger strapped to his leg. He comes to understand that this man is out to kill someone who wronged him earlier in life. As he drops the hitchhiker off at a fork in the road, little does the truck driver realize that their short time together has changed everything, and that their destinies are inexorably intertwined.

THE SILENT HOLY STONES ལྷིང་འཇགས་ཀྱི་མ་ཎི་རྡོ་འབུམ།

Pema Tseden | 2002

China | 30 minutes | Tibetan with English subtitles

Pema Tseden made this short film when he was still studying at Beijing Film Academy. This is his first directorial effort and has become the basis of his feature debut with the same name in 2005.

The Search

Saturday, July 8 | 7 – 9 pm EDT

Scandinavia House 58 Park Avenue New York, NY 10016

The Search འཚོལ།

Pema Tseden | 2009

China | 105 minutes | Tibetan with English subtitles

A director, his assistant, and a businessman drive through the Amdo region of Tibet, scouring small villages to find actors for their adaptation of the namthar of Drime Kunden, an opera traditionally performed for the Tibetan New Year, that tells the story of a prince-an early incarnation of Buddha-who gives away all his possessions, his wife and children, and even his own eyes. Driving through the country’s stunning landscapes, the crew meets frustration in their search for actors who can live up to the legendary roles. They find that while many of the traditions they would like to film have persisted, others are disappearing.

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