Film review: When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun (15)


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The Independent Culture

Dirk Simon's documentary about the Chinese occupation of Tibet is a study in the limits of protest – and the limits of protest cinema. The gradual erosion of Tibetan culture has found little purchase in the West, Richard Gere's campaigning aside.

The film's coup is an interview with the 14th Dalai Lama, whose advocacy of non-violent protest is contrasted with a gathering inclination among young Tibetans towards active resistance. It does drag.

Simon's willingness to give ear to Chinese defenders of the occupation diffuses the issues rather than clarifies them, and swells an already overlong running time. The music by Philip Glass is the most annoying I've heard in any documentary this year.