Tibetan Director Pema Tseden’s Last Film ‘Snow Leopard’ Wins Best Film at Tokyo International Film Festival

By Tsering Choephel

Pema Tseden’s last film, “Snow Leopard” was awarded the prestigious Tokyo Grand Prix prize at the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival. Image: TIFF.

DHARAMSALA, 3 Nov: Pema Tseden’s final film, “Snow Leopard,” was honoured with the prestigious Tokyo Grand Prix prize at the conclusion ceremony of the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF)on Wednesday, as reported by various online sources.

The film was completed shortly before the untimely passing of the renowned Tibetan director on May 8th due to a cardiac attack. The festival screened 219 films from around the world with 74,841 admissions, marking a significant increase in participation, according to the festival’s website report. The award comes with a prize of 3 million yen.

Festival’s Jury President Wim Wenders announced the unanimous decision of the jury to bestow the Tokyo Grand Prix award upon “Snow Leopard,” directed by the late Tibetan director Pema Tseden, who passed away in May at the age of 53.

Pema Tseden and his films. Illustration by Tenzin Tendhar/ Pencil & Pixel Studio, illustrated for TALI Tibet.

“We pay tribute to his body of work and honor him for showing us a breathtaking landscape, natural and humorous acting, and an astonishing animal, even if some of its acting was achieved through special effects.”

The film’s executive director, Zhou Hao, introduced the actors and spoke about the late director’s son, who is also a director, saying, “I am confident he will carry his father’s spirit with him as he moves forward. He told me that his father, a pioneer in creating films in the Tibetan language, was also a novelist with a broad following.”

Jinpa, a Tibetan actor featured in many of Pema Tseden’s films, including ‘Tharlo,’ ‘Balloon,’ ‘Jinpa,’ and ‘Snow Leopard,’ was present at the award ceremony. “Thank you very much. I worked with Pema Tseden for many years, and I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone,” he said.

Tseten Tashi, who portrayed the “snow leopard monk” in the film, said, “I believe Pema Tseden will always be with us.”

Pema Tseden was born in a village in Amdo Tibet. Prior to his foray into filmmaking, he worked as a teacher and civil servant. He is also a writer, with many of his short stories translated into various languages, including English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Czech.

Rekjong Dhondup Tashi, a scholar and friend of Pema Tseden, wrote, “Pema Tseden revolutionised contemporary Tibetan cinema by expanding the reach of the Tibetan narrative on a global scale and inspiring a new generation of filmmakers. He served as a guiding influence and mentor for numerous Tibetan filmmakers, including Sonthar Gyal, Lhapal Gyal, Khashem Gyal, and others.”

“His enduring legacy continues to motivate these filmmakers to share the rich, untold Tibetan stories with the rest of the world,” he added.

A review of the film “Snow Leopard” by the International Cinephile Society (ICS) states, “If Snow Leopard accomplishes anything, it is to demonstrate that the world lost not only a talented director in a technical sense but also a man capable of delving into the profound connection between humanity and the world around it.”

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