Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DOC NYC Spotlight: Miss Tibet

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its fifth year in New York City from November 13th-20th.

Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile
Directed by Norah Shapiro
Screening November 16 at 7:15pm and November 17 at 11:15am

Tibet has a certain mythical quality to it, geographically separate from the rest of the world and located within a country with which it doesn’t identify on a number of levels. It has a distinct pull for those with Tibetan heritage who have never had the opportunity to visit their homeland, more so than many other places from which those with ancestors with historic roots in a controversial place are banned. That setup makes an unexpected attempt to connect with Tibetan culture – a beauty pageant – a particularly interesting topic for examination.

“Miss Tibet,” which uses a very fitting tagline, “Beauty in Exile,” as its subtitle, follows a group of contestants in Miss Tibet, a pageant hosted in India designed to determine who the best representative of Tibetan ideals and culture is. One participant comes from Minneapolis, home to one of the largest communities of Tibetans around the world, an assimilated American with an active interest in forging a deeper connection with her people and the place she considers to be home despite having never visited. That spirit of yearning to recreate something distant and unattainable is the driving force behind everyone’s participation in this pageant.

This relatively short documentary – which runs just sixty-nine minutes – manages to evoke a sense of what Tibet is and what it represents to those with roots there through literal imagery and through evoking the feeling of being connected to something grander that isn’t tangibly within reach. The film also addresses the components of a beauty pageant that don’t fit in with what being a Tibetan represents. Diverse opinions don’t derail this unifying event, and this small snapshot of an intriguing international event feels like a worthwhile introduction to a much deeper and rich story.


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