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director on gendun choephel

   
   
 

The idea for the film "Angry Monk — Reflections on Tibet" originated during several trips to China, Tibet and India between 1988 and 1999. Without being aware of it, I travelled to the same places that the protagonist of the movie visited 50 years before. Since 1988 I have been studying the country of Tibet and how the western world perceives it. And I repeatedly came across the name of Gendun Choephel.

 
           
     
         
   
Gendun Choephel, 1950   Potala Palace, 2002   Monk policeman in lhasa, 1949
 
           
       

Gendun Choephel (1903-51) was a wanderer between worlds — at once a dreamer, a rebel and a researcher. He lived in a time that was decisive for the future of his country, between the British colonial invasion of 1903 and the occupation by the Chinese army in 1951. At that time Tibet wasn’t the inaccessible Shangri-La that people often claim, but a torn country on the verge of big changes. Tibet’s attempts to introduce a new social structure and to find its own way into the twentieth century failed because of the resistance of the conservative nobility and the monasteries.

As Tibet moved towards isolation, Gendun Choephel was open to new experiences. We can trace his path through his writings, articles, pictures and sketches. He looked at his own society in a critical way, was interested in political issues and tried to apply them to everyday life; he was, therefore, the initiator of critical and intellectual thought within Tibetan society.
 

 
           
     
     
Zhöpang, 1999   Milarepa, the crazy saint   Party member's card, 1946  
 
           
 
ANGRY MONK
Reflections on Tibet
a film by Luc Schaedler
Switzerland 2005
1:1,85 • 35mm • Colours
97 minutes • Ov/d
   

During his last years, Gendun Choephel became a role model for many young Tibetans in Chinese-occupied Tibet and also for those in exile in India. While their parents lost Tibet, the younger generation looked for role models that would allow a critical view of their own society. But the western world only slowly became aware of Choephel because his life story doesn’t mesh with our rigid image of Tibet, which prefers to portray Tibetans as victims rather than the makers of their own history.

Luc Schaedler