A director, his assistant, and a businessman drive through the Amdo region of Tibet, scouring small villages to find actors for their adaptation of the namthar of Drime Kunden, an opera traditionally performed for the Tibetan New Year, that tells the story of a prince-an early incarnation of Buddha-who gives away all his possessions, his wife and children, and even his own eyes.
Driving through the country's stunning landscapes, the crew meets frustration in their search for actors who can live up to the legendary roles. They find that while many of the traditions they would like to film have persisted, others are disappearing.
Directed by Pema Tseden, whose SILENT HOLY STONES was China's first Tibetan-language film, THE SEARCH reveals a contemporary Tibet where the ancient and the modern co-exist.
The film is framed by two love stories. In the first village they visit, the team discovers the perfect actress to play Made Zangmo, Drime Kunden's wife, but she will not perform unless her ex-boyfriend, who has left the village for a job in the city, plays the lead. The crew consents, and brings her along to find him. Along the way, the businessman tells the story of his first love. This moving account entertains the crew between stops in the villages, and captivates the otherwise quiet actress.
A human story that unfolds in the context of religious parable and historical change, THE SEARCH offers a sensitive, nuanced look at contemporary Tibet.
"This film uses perfectly framed long takes, from a largely distant yet intimately engaged camera...a masterpiece of understated emotional longing set against an urgent desire to preserve a disappearing culture." —Cinema Scope
2015 Ottawa Tibet Film Festival
Top 100 mainland Chinese films, Time Out Shanghai 2014
Grand Prize, 2009 Shanghai International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize, 2009 Bangkok International Film Festival
2009 Toronto International Film Festival
2009 Locarno Film Festival
2009 Vancouver International Film Festival
2009 London Film Festival
2010 Hong Kong International Film Festival
2010 Melbourne International Film Festival
"At times, the film feels like Tibetan Idol, with the film crew recording bizarre and amusing auditions in frost-swept brick courtyards, cavernous rehearsal rooms and dimly lit anterooms." —All Things Considered, NPR
"[The] most exciting and unexpected was the possibly unprecedented discovery of an important new film at The Shanghai International Film Festival...the chance to see Tibet through a contemporary resident Tibetanís eyes is a big part of the filmís appeal. The imagery is often stunning, but never picture postcard-like." —Chris Berry, Senses of Cinema