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'Dreaming Lhasa'

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Dreaming Lhasa
Directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
First Run Features
Opens April 13, ImaginAsian

The adverts promise a voyage to Tibet like we've never seen, but Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam's vision of people unmoored from their homeland is a familiar and banal embossment of foreign anguish. Primped for easy American consumption, this clunkily performed and staged drama concerns a filmmaker's agenda to document Tibetan oppression under Chinese occupation. This becomes spurious pretext for a rather flat Nancy Drew adventure when Karma (Tenzin Chokyi Gyatso)—to the chagrin of her assistant and musician-suitor, Jigme (Tenzin Jigme)—agrees to help an ex-monk, Dhondup (Jampa Kalsang), return a charm box to a long-missing resistance fighter. In spite of Karma's obligatory propensity for colorless self-analysis ("The more I learn about Tibet the more I feel like a complete stranger"), her Tibetan-American identity is never really up for serious discussion. And Karma's scenic tour of the Dalai Lama's exile headquarters in northern India is just the backdrop for a rather dopey either/or romantic proposition. Karma could have been played by Sarah Michelle Gellar and the moral would have been the same: Ditch the cocky rock musician for the soulful ex-monk, dummy.
 
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