A Disjointed Mess of a Documentary
‘Never Forget Tibet’ shares the lousy, unfocused structure of ‘Zeitgeist’ and other trash.
My husband is Tibetan. When one of his friends announced that there was a documentary about the Dalai Lama’s 1959 escape from Tibet, we all had to go see it.
But was it about the 1959 escape? Was it? What was it about?
There was a heartwarming scene of His Holiness reuniting with the Indian political officer who guided his family out of the TAR. There was an interview with each man about their memories of that escape.
This was great because it formed a coherent narrative throughline.
What Is Happening?
The interviews are scattered between scenes of an archivist talking about Heinrich Herrer’s photo collection from Tibet, a charming interview with the former president of the Kashag, and a reporter talking about Chinese skullduggery on the Tibetan border.
Ok, that at least is about Tibet. That is on topic. It is called ‘Never Forget Tibet.’
And then there are scenes concerning the nunnery and hospital in Dharamsala.
I mean, it involved Tibetans and His Holiness, so…I guess it is related.
And then there were the obligatory dippy DJs and Sanskrit scholars going on about how today we need compassion and whatever we think effects the universe.
This is only related by aesthetics. Does no one know how to edit? Has no one figured out where the delete button is? Why is the dippy DJ on screen? Why aren’t any of these scenes arranged in some order that tells a coherent story? Why does it keep jumping between lovely pictures of Dharamsala and unrelated snippets that are vaguely Tibetan related?
The closest thing they have to structure is following a journalist as she gets interviews with the Indian political officer and His Holiness, but that structure isn’t bent toward telling the history of Tibet or some one aspect of Tibetan culture. Instead, it breaks up impressionistic blurbs that can be summed up as ‘Tibet good.’
Undoubtedly, it warmed my husband’s heart. He was pleased with seeing Dharamsala again, a place he lived in for a couple years, and he was excited to see that the Dalai Lama escaped along the same route he did.
I was annoyed out of my cotton-picking mind. There are too many darn ‘philosophical’ or ‘deep’ treatises that stop a narrative dead with a bunch of irrelevant but deep sounding fluff. Just because Steinbeck famously broke up the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ with his allegory of the turtle crossing the road does not mean everybody is free to abandon coherence.
Can we please have a documentary that picks a clear, narrow theme and sticks with it? We couldn’t even tell when the movie ended because the rambling interviews and prayer sections after the credits were indistinguishable from the rest of the movie. We realized the movie had ended after the FOURTH post-credit section of unrelated person meditating or talking about the sacred feminine. An hour and a half long documentary was such a structureless mess that we didn’t know where it finished.
The theme was too broad, being just ‘Tibet and Tibetan-related stuff is nice,’ and there was no way of telling what the heck the actual point was.