The Sun Behind the Clouds: The Dalai Lama Can Only Do So Much

Documenting both the largest Tibetan uprising since the 1959 Chinese takeover and the Dalai Lama’s pre-Beijing Olympics diplomatic tour, The Sun offers a succinct and sober look at the philosophical impasse at the heart of the Tibetan cause. In early 2008, co-directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (a married couple and frequent collaborators on Tibet- and Asian-themed docs) hit the road with a group of fed-up Buddhist monks on a march from India into Tibet and followed the Dalai Lama as he continued to plead his case for a “middle way” between independence from China and a “meaningful autonomy” that protects Tibetan language and culture. The pitched battle between the Lama and the Chinese evinces politics at its worst, and many Tibetans have had enough. The Sun teases out the contradiction between the Lama’s power as a symbol to the fiercely loyal Tibetan people, and that of his diplomatic voice, which he is using to push what they see as an impotent agenda. The most heated confrontation here finds Tibet’s famously serene monks reduced to a finger-pointing screaming match. It’s a scene that suggests both the fondest wish of the Chinese—to divide the enemy against itself—and the increasing desperation for justice within the Lama’s lifetime.