When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun (2010) DVD

July 17th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dirk Simon’s worthy and colourful documentary on the Chinese occupation of Tibet has been several years in the making and excites visually with its exultant time-lapse sequences and aerial photographer of this magnificent part of the World. ┬áSimon offers up an impressive array of interviews with political activists, community leaders and luminaries such as the Dalai Lama to create an intelligent and thought-provoking piece of filmmaking and one that takes a pluralist view on the crisis with archive footage from both sides of the fence not just that of the Tibetan people, who appear engaging, inspiring and well-informed.

However, as is often the case with this type of documentary, Simon keeps re-enforcing the salient points of the debate over and over again, overstimulating the viewer with a plethora of facts accompanied by Philip Glass’s pounding and ubiquitous musical score (although well-composed) which ramps up and intensifies the emotional content leaving us with little space to process and consider the importance of his message.

In the hands of a documentary-maker such as Richard E Grant, there would have been time and space for contemplation. A more measured approach here and some judicious editing (at nearly two hours it’s overlong) would have made for a more engaging and effective experience. ┬áThat said, there are interludes, such as the audience with the Buddhist oracle and listening to the Dalai Lama’s pearls of wisdom, that offer truly riveting viewing. MT

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