The King of Tibet, living in exile in Dharamsala in Northern India, is the 16-year-old Namgyal Wangchuk Trichen Lhagyari. As the only recognized descendent of the first Dharma King of Tibet (617-698 AD), Namgyal carries the unique responsibility of representing Tibet’s unbroken history and heritage. Yet, as a teenager, he also represents a new generation of young Tibetans who are caught today between the peaceful traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and a desperate desire to fight for the freedom of their people. These young Tibetans speak about the slow obliteration of their very identity – their livelihoods, their right to choose where they live, their ability to be educated in their languages – and the stark choice they face of either remaining in Tibetan areas under these constraints or seeking to flee to other countries.
BYkids film mentor Dirk Simon, whose film Between the Lines has received world-wide recognition, worked with Namgyal during spring 2008 to help him tell his emblematic story through film. In addition to diving into the technical aspects of filming, which the young king learned quickly, Dirk and Namgyal looked closely at how to shape narrative story telling through image. Namgyal demonstrated a quick mastery of the craft of filmmaking, and conducted his interviews and narrated his footage in both Tibetan and English. He has narrated the film in English and the film is in final production.
Dirk actually met Namgyal in Dharamsala four years earlier at the time of the young boy’s coronation ceremony, presided by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, in June 2004. The previous Dharma King of Tibet, Namgyal’s father, had died just a year earlier. Namgyal’s father had been incarcerated by the Chinese authorities for 20 years and struggled for the survival of his lineage.
Dirk describes the young king as carrying the vision of two worlds: the one-thousand-year-old heritage of Tibet’s Dharma Kings and the current struggle of a people striving to survive under repression, abuse and ethnic genocide. “With his devotion to the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, his kindness and modesty, he touches the heart of everyone who meets him. Now we are back here to help him tell his story.”