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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Dragon Swallows at Reykjavik








China puts pressure on Iceland to suppress the documentary “When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun” at the International Reykjavik Film Festival, which opened this Thursday.


The festival director, Hrönn Marinósdóttir, was summoned to the Chinese embassy in Reykjavik, urged to withdraw the film and informed that China disapproves the documentary. When she declined, the Chinese embassy complained to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Reykjavik and implied economical and political consequences for the Chinese-Icelandic relationships if the documentary screens. The festival committee decided to show the film as originally scheduled on September 27th, 28th and 29th and October 1st.

Based on 800 hours of footage shot over seven years in India, Beijing and Chinese-occupied Lhasa, “When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun” provides an in-depth look behind the scenes of the Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation. With the countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the Olympic Torch route fiasco as a backdrop, German-American director Dirk Simon presents exclusive interviews and rare archival material with a soundtrack by Philip Glass, Thom Yorke and Damien Rice. The film features Richard Gere, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 14th Dalai Lama, some of the most prominent Chinese contemporary artists, and all the key figures of the exiled Tibetan freedom movement.
China’s opposition to this documentary is all the more surprising as the film gives both sides of the conflict a chance to speak and does not hesitate to explore the dissensions between the Dalai Lama’s nonviolent, middle-way policy and Tibetan radicals who have come to see violence as the only way to shake off Chinese domination. German-born director Dirk Simon admits that growing up in a divided Germany has considerably affected him in his quest for freedom, which has become one of his key topics. “More than any other film on that subject matter, When The Dragon avoids painting a ‘black and white’ picture. It highlights the complexity of the issue on both sides. There are facts and numbers you can’t ignore, like how many Tibetans have died as a direct result of China’s invasion and occupation. But the film also shows love and compassion in China and raises questions and concerns about the Tibetan freedom movement in exile. I think it is time to have an open dialogue. We get the secondmost hits on our website from China, which shows the strong interest there is.”

The Director of the Department for International Affairs at the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Emil Breki Hreggvidsson, states that “no formal request” has been issued by the Chinese embassy and in any case, “Which films are shown in the cinemas is not an issue for the Ministry.”


For more information about the documentary, see  


READ FEST21.COM review of film's open at Santa Barbara FF


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