Leaving Fear Behind

Directed by Dhondup Wangchen

Films at the Himalayan Fair, Tibet in Focus / Tibet / 2008 / Documentary / 25 mins / Tibetan with English subtitles


Leaving Fear Behind is a heroic film shot by Tibetans from inside Tibet, who longed to bring Tibetan voices to the Beijing Olympic Games. With the global spotlight on China as it rises to host the XXIX Olympics, Tibetans wish to tell the world of their plight and their heartfelt grievances against Chinese rule. The footage was smuggled out of Tibet under extraordinary circumstances. The filmmakers were detained soon after sending their tapes out, and remain in detention today.

In a remarkable coincidence, filming concluded in early March 2008 on the eve of the eruption of unprecedented mass Tibetan protests across the Tibetan plateau. Shot primarily in the eastern provinces of Tibet, the film provides a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people and their longstanding resentment of Chinese policies in Tibet.

The filmmakers traversed thousands of miles, asking ordinary Tibetans what they really feel about the Dalai Lama, China, and the Olympic Games. The filmmakers gave their subjects the option of covering their faces, but almost all of the 108 people interviewed agreed to have their faces shown on film, so strong was their desire to express themselves to the world. Excerpts from twenty of the interviews, including a self-recorded interview of the filmmaker himself, are included in the 25 minute film.

Director's Bio

Dhondup Wangchen is a Tibetan filmmaker imprisoned by the Chinese government in 2006 on charges related to  his documentary Leaving Fear Behind. Made with senior Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso, the documentary consists of interviews with ordinary Tibetan people discussing the 14th Dalai Lama, the Chinese government, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Han Chinese migrants to the region. After smuggling the tapes of the interviews out of Tibet, however, Dhondup Wangchen and Jigme Gyatso were detained during the 2008 Tibetan unrest.

Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for subversion. Numerous international human rights organizations protested his detention, including Amnesty International, which named him a prisoner of conscience. In 2012, he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Dates & Times

Leaving Fear Behind

Live Oak Theatre
May 18, 2013 1:00 pm