Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s second feature film The Sweet Requiem is a powerful and political narrative about the experience of Tibetan refugees. It is excellently made and culminates in a powerfully human story. (HRM: 4/5)
Review by FF2 Intern Hannah Mayo
26 year old “Dolkar” (Tenzin Dolker) lives in a Tibetan refugee colony in Delhi. 18 years ago she traveled through the Himalayan Mountains with her father to escape Chinese armed forces and reach a better life, leaving behind her mother and sister. While her current day life in Delhi is comfortable, the long and arduous journey she went through as a young girl has shaped the person she grew into.
As conditions in Tibet grow more tense, with self-immolations constantly on the news, Dolkar tries repeatedly to get in contact with her sister in Tibet. Through him she must find reconciliation with her own story and the larger story of Tibetan refugees.
Directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam set out to tell an accurate and human story of Tibetan refugees that is shaped by karma. This is the main theme that seeps through the rich story told through Dolkar’s experience. Her present and past are intertwined through the magic of film editing, giving the sense that they are interdependent and inseparable. It magnifies the impact of every small occurrence in each plot line and makes for very effective storytelling. The flat, unemotional scenes shot in the at altitudes up to 15,000 feet in India’s Himalayan region of Ladakh contrast with the fluidity of those shot in urban Delhi. The landscape exemplifies the harsh reality of the dangerous and often deadly trip the refugees must take in order to reach asylum.
From the first moments of the film, the most absorbing aspect is the way Dolker inhabits her character. A first-time actor, she steps into her role with both elegance and heart that allows the viewer to read her emotions without her having to say a word. The entire film effectively centers around her and her own experience, and she is able to bring this to the screen with minimal dialogue and explanation.
The topic of the film is heavy and saturated in politics, but the filmmaking maintains a delicacy and sobriety that keeps it overall engaging and digestible. The cinematography is neat and almost documentary-like in approach. The music is cinematic but doesn’t overwhelm the already effective filmmaking. It is an excellently made film with a meaningful story and point of view.
Q: Does The Sweet Requiem pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Yes! Dolkar has a phone conversation with her sister about their lives over the past year.