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Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion (2002)

Unrated  |   |  Documentary, History  |  12 September 2003 (Canada)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 558 users   Metascore: 75/100
Reviews: 16 user | 24 critic | 19 from

A film about the state of Chinese occupied Tibet and its history of oppression and resistance.


(as Tom Peosay)
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Credited cast:
Tibetan Voiceovers
Tibetan Voiceovers
Tibetan Voiceovers
Tibetan Voiceovers
Tibetan Voiceovers
Narrator (voice)


Filmed during nine journeys throughout Tibet, India and Nepal, this film brings audiences to the long-forbidden "rooftop of the world"... from rarely-seen rituals in remote monasteries, to horse races with Khamba warriors; from brothels and slums in the holy city of Lhasa, to magnificent Himalayan peaks still traveled by nomadic yak caravans. The dark secrets of Tibet's recent past are chronicled through personal stories and interviews, and a collection of undercover and archival images. TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION is an epic story of courage and compassion. Written by Sue Peosay

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Behind the secrets... Beyond your imagination... An unforgettable epic of courage and compassion.


Unrated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 September 2003 (Canada)  »

Also Known As:

A hóoroszlán üvöltése  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$22,688 (USA) (12 December 2003)


$577,841 (USA) (11 June 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Buddha was not born in India as mentioned in the documentary , instead he was born in Lumbini, a territory of Nepal. See more »

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User Reviews

Informative, but lacking in depth
13 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film does a good job at depicting the atrocities following the Chinese invasion of Tibet, making a case for the cultural and spiritual autonomy of its people. It depicts the inflexible and arrogant Chinese position, even giving Chinese officials some uncommented screen time, obviously based on the assumption that they need no help in discrediting themselves (and being quite right about that). And it shows the complicity of the rest of the world, either through collaboration or inaction, with what is happening in Tibet. If you know little about Tibet, and want to get a decent summary of the contemporary Western position on this topic (not necessarily the official position of Western governments, perhaps, but the "politically correct" stand in educated Western society), you will find it in this film.

The thing that bothers me a little about this film is its unquestioning sympathy for the Dalai Lama and the former system of government in Tibet. A segment of the movie depicts the pre-invasion Tibet as something almost like paradise, citing the childhood memories of several old Tibetans in support of how harmonious and beautiful life was before the Chinese came and ruined it all.

Another perspective, which does not get much mention except in the otherwise rather distorted and hardly trustworthy statements of those Chinese officials, is that religious feudalism reigned pre-invasion Tibet, and the Dalai Lama is one of the last feudal lords still alive (along with, perhaps, the Saudi kings)---and that what escalated the situation to the point at which the Dalai Lama fled the country was not the invasion itself, but their subsequent land reforms (like those of most Communist regimes of the last century), which meant that the economical basis for the significant idle part of the society (the monks) suddenly disappeared.

As difficult as it is to find much sympathy for the Chinese, it is, from a modern secular perspective, not really easy to side with the Dalai Lama, either. I suppose it's main "selling point" to Westerners would be that the Tibetan people want him and whatever government he'd stand for, and that is certainly a key point. If it is, in fact, the case. It would have been interesting to dig a little deeper into this, and, for instance, ask some of those farmers that ended up owning the land that they had been working on after the land reforms. If the Chinese are right, then there should be lots of them who, after benefiting from their "liberation", would say many good things about it. Otherwise there wouldn't be, and we would hear other stories from those who now own the land, or perhaps find that the land was turned over to CCP functionaries.

However, instead of "following the land", we get to hear that story about how the PRC picked their own Panchen Lama, after finding the one that the Dalai Lama identified as the "right" incarnation unsatisfactory. The movie comments that it's strange for a Communist leader to nominate the incarnation of a Lama, and that is certainly correct. But, hey, it's strange either way because, and let us not lose sight of that, all this reincarnation stuff is superstitious nonsense.

After all, we should remember that even in former times identifying the next Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama was a highly political affair, not the least reason for which was the fact that it was connected with considerable economical and political benefits for the family and the people around them. All the spiritual stuff is a story that was told to the largely uneducated masses to justify the system, much as it was in medieval Europe. But that should be no reason for us, or our film makers, to buy into it, too.

As is common these days in the West, all these claims of "spirituality" are just unquestioningly accepted, to the point where some guy compares the insights about the "outside world" due to modern science to whatever those Tibetan monks figured out about the "inside world" during the ample time while they were not, unlike the vast majority of the people in that society, toiling the fields. Yeah, right.

So in summary, a pretty decent intro to modern Tibetan history and the atrocities committed by the Chinese, which could use a little less of a Richard-Gere-perspective and a bit more of what you'd find in, e.g., Melvyn Goldstein's "A History of Modern Tibet". If the movie whets people's appetite to learn more about this tragedy in our times, and read a book like Goldstein's to do so, it would be a significant contribution.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Want to do something about Tibet? cryofthesnowlion
folks, how can you know the history simply based on a movie? keasay
Anti-China is not the same as Pro-Dalai-Lama JWJanneck
Waaaay too American WRFan
In black and white? esboat1
An excellent introductory film for Tibet's plight calafia
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