10:00 - 8th February 2014, by Calum Waddell

When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun

The 'Free Tibet' movement really picked up prominence, and publicity, in the 1990s, thanks to a series of concerts supported by such big players as Pulp, Radiohead and REM. This admirable and well-intentioned documentary explores a cause that has since left the radar of most news headlines - namely the fact that China continues to refuse independence to the country it invaded and colonised back in 1949.

The extremes of Chinese rule are both discussed and visually highlighted here - including the contrast of peaceful protests within Tibet with the violence of the ruling authorities in Beijing. With that said, some airtime is also given to the other side - with some Chinese nationals giving their side of the argument - but, mostly, this is about the how the protest movement, which was also picked up by the Hollywood icon Richard Gere (appearing briefly), has failed to bring any closure or change. No answers to this dilemma are really given - especially as footage of the Beijing Olympics rise onto the screen, and protests continue, but make little difference to the sporting behemoth. Director Dirk Simon, who spent seven years on this project, seems to be lost as to where or how he wants the documentary to conclude. As a history lesson, this is a valuable asset - and the Dalai Lama remains a figure deserving of a documentary of his own - but, at the end of the day, When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun seems as unsure as anyone else about how, in the wake of failed A-list support, the Chinese can ever be convinced to give Tibet away...

A documentary that is well worth watching - for both insight and some powerful imagery. It will doubtlessly have some wondering if this is a debate that will ever conclude...
SCORE: 3.5/5
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