Tibet in Song introduces us to Tibetan folk music and reveals how Chinese policies have systematically tried to destroy it since the takeover of Tibet in 1949. The film weaves a mesmerizing story of beauty, pain, brutality, and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film. Ngawang Choephel’s breathtaking personal story as filmmaker turned political prisoner guides the film, while the Tibetans he films bravely speak out to the world, for the first time, to proclaim the richness and beauty of their musical heritage, and to herald the dark truth about their sufferings in the struggle for artistic freedom under China’s iron fist.
The film debuted in NYC in 2010 and was awarded the Special Jury Prize for World Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival, making Ngawang Choepel the first Tibetan to win a Sundance award.
Ngawang Choephel is an award-winning filmmaker and Tibetan traditional musician. A graduate of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala, he taught music in India before winning a Fulbright Scholarship to study international music and filmmaking at Middlebury College in the United States. He is a recipient of Middlebury College’s Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree, Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award, and Lobsang Wangyal’s Best Act in Exile Award, and is a Sundance Institute Fellow. While filming his documentary “Tibet in Song”, Ngawang was arrested by Chinese authorities and accused of espionage, for which he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. International pressure secured his early release in 2002, and he resumed work on his film. “Tibet in Song” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 where it won the Special Jury Award in the World Documentary Competition. Ngawang received international acclaim and numerous awards for his film, including the CINE Golden Eagle Award; Emerging Director Award, AAIFF; Best Documentary, Calgary International Film Festival; Cinema for Peace International Human Rights Award, Berlin; Best Documentary, San Louis Obispo International Film Festival; Special Jury Mention, One World International Film Festival Prague; Audience Award, Watch Docs International Human Rights Film Festival; Special Jury Mention, Watch Docs International Human Rights Film Festival; and Audience Award, Movies that Matter, the Hague. Now living in the United States, Ngawang continues to be a high-profile member of the exiled Tibetan community. With his production company, Guge Productions, he is currently working on a new documentary on Ganden, the most important Tibetan monastery.