The romanticisation of lived reality under the totalitarian régime

    DARK RED FOREST: The director leaves us only to guess his true intention – honesty or paying lip service to the propaganda?

    Dark Red Forest begs the question, for whom is this film made? Is it for both Chinese and Western audiences to cling to a naive idea about the spiritual purity of Tibetan highlands? Or is this a subtle critique of the Chinese régime as it eagerly tries to infantilize a neighbouring culture? Jin Huaqing’s cinematography is a beautiful visual presentation which romanticizes the life of a cloister of Tibetan nuns living under the Chinese totalitarian régime. Yet, most reviews and even the director claim this is a spiritual or philosophical documentary. One wonders how is it possible to shoot a spiritual film about one of the most politically repressed nations and its equally persecuted religious institutions without inviting the problem of this repression into the discussion?

    Dark Red Forest, a film by Jin Huaqing
    Dark Red Forest, a film by Jin Huaqing

    Childish Tibetan nuns

    The documentary is visually attractive and astonishing for those who have not experienced the harsh Tibetan climate. The first half is awe-inspiring and focuses on elemental detail. Nuns are captured attending religious gatherings, cooking, eating together, visiting the doctor, their gurus (in Tibetan lama), or practising meditation. During these monastic scenes, the audience can, for instance, see a nun drawing a picture of Buddha while listening to a sermon; another is sleeping or licking a bowl after a common lunch, and, by the end of the movie, a nun is seen squatting, . . .

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    Zbynek MuchaěkMucha
    Doctoral student in History and Asian Studies, Tibetan and Bengali language enthusiast

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