Fire under the Snow

Makoto Sasa

The Tibetan Buddhist monk Palden Gyatso was imprisoned in a Chinese cell for thirty-three years. In 1959, the communist superpower invaded the small, spiritual mountain state the Dalai Lama originally comes from, under the guise of liberation. Of their faith, that is, since the communists did not tolerate religion. Like many other monks at the time, the Chinese arrested Palden for participating in peaceful protest and other allegations. For years, the Chinese authorities humiliated, tortured and starved him, and forced him to do inhuman labour. His captivity had a profound influence on his personality: from a peace-loving monk that prayed virtually all day long, he changed into a short-tempered man who lost faith in other people. Palden bears witness to it in Fire Under the Snow, which captures his life story from the first to the last minute. Archive footage and photos in black-and-white, of the Chinese invasion and Palden's childhood that he spent with his uncle and aunt, bring his history to life. It is not over yet, because to this day China keeps Tibet occupied. At the end, Palden goes on a hunger strike to force the International Olympic Committee to discuss the issue with the Chinese government. (IDFA)


Makoto Sasa
Japan, United States
75 minutes
prison & detention, social and peace movements, torture