Renowned Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden dies at 53


His films “Jinpa” and “Balloon” won awards at international festivals.

Renowned Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden dies at 53

Tibetan director Pema Tseden arrives at the 55th Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 17, 2018. He had been nominated for Best Director for the film “Jinpa.”

Award-winning Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden, best-known for “Jinpa” and “Balloon” and admired by both Chinese and Tibetans for his work showing the living conditions of Tibetans, died in Lhasa on Monday, several sources told Radio Free Asia. He was 53.

He died of heart failure, a source close to Tseden said. He was staying in the Maldro Gongkar area of Lhasa where he was working on a film, the source said.

Tseden’s films received awards at the Busan Asia International Film Festival and Taiwan Film Festival and were translated into Chinese, Japanese and English.

“Under the difficult situation in Tibet, and with very few Tibetan filmmakers in exile, Pema Tseten took the responsibility of making films based on the real situation in Tibet and on the changes taking place,” said Tenzin Sonam, a Tibetan filmmaker based in Dharamsala, India.

 “He has made a remarkable contribution to Tibetan filmmaking and his death is a big loss to the Tibetan community and is sad news to all Tibetans,” he said.

His last three completed films, including “Tharlo,” were all invited to play at the Venice Film Festival, according to Variety.

His earlier films – “Silent Prayer Stone” and “Lakmar” – also made a strong imprint on international filmmaking, Sonam said.

Tseden studied film at the Beijing Film Institute. He was the first director to make films entirely in the Tibetan language, but his award-winning work was generally not critical of Chinese rule in the region. In recent years, he was a professor at the China Academy of Art’s film school.

Tseden was arrested by police in the western Chinese city of Xinping in 2016 and had to be hospitalized following an interrogation and beating. 

Police said in a statement at the time that the filmmaker had gotten into a dispute with security guards at an airport after trying to return to the luggage reclaim hall.

Translated by Rigdhen Dolma. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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