The situation in Tibet has been dire for a long time but a lot of ordinary people are sadly not even aware of it. They will be familiar with the Dalai Lama but are not savvy with the efforts to free Tibet from Chinese occupation. The Red Chinese army invaded the region in 1949 and they have been there ever since, this documentary by Dirk Simon is an effort to help spread awareness of the issue. The 14th Dalai Lama has fought a fifty year battle to try and bring democracy to Tibet from his exile. His efforts are unfortunately hampered by both internal conflict and external opposition to change.

This documentary focuses on the plight of many Tibetan exiles living around the world and gives them a chance to talk on camera about their views. It also features interviews with well known figures such as Richard Gere, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. There is also plenty of HD footage from India, China, Tibet and the U.S. as various people from those nations are interviewed on the subject.

It’s an emotive issue that needs more awareness and the director gets props for bringing the conflict into the spotlight. It’s sad that there is still so much trouble in the world and places where people can have their human rights taken away.

The trailer is effective as it mixes scenes of the beautiful Tibetan landscape and culture with scenes of protest and conflict. A shot of a Tibetan sunrise is shown as a young exile reminisces about conversations with his father, he describes how his father would often talk about the Tibet he remembers before the occupation, a beautiful land full of tranquility and peace until everything changed when the invasion began. Talk about the invasion is preceded by an atmospheric shot of a lightning storm brewing which is like a bad omen of things to come. The calm music at the start of the trailer is also replaced by a beat that sounds like a protest march, footage is then shown of exiles trying to change the status quo through protest and direct action.

It’s always good to see a documentary that explores an important issue, hopefully When the Dragon Swallows the Sun will raise awareness and give the viewer some food for thought.

The film will be out in cinemas on August 16th, have a look at the trailer and share your thoughts.