Pema Tseden

Writer and director Pema Tseden (1969-2023) was born in Amdo, in the Tibetan region of Qinghai Province.

He is widely recognized as the leading filmmaker of a newly emerging Tibetan cinema and the first director in China to film his movies entirely in the Tibetan language. Tseden has published more than 50 short stories and novels both in Tibetan and Chinese; his work has won numerous awards including the Drang-char (sbrang-char) Tibetan Literature Prize and has been translated into languages English, French, and German.

Pema Tseden began his film career in 2002. His feature films, all of which have received great acclaim, include The Grassland (2004), The Silent Holy Stones (2005), The Search (2009), Old Dog (2011), Tharlo (2015), Jinpa (2019) and, what would be his final film, Snow Leopard (2023). Tseden was the Chairman of the Directors Association of China; he was also a member of the Filmmakers and Literary Societies of China.

Pema Tseden died unexpectedly on May 8th, 2023, at age 53.

The dGenerate Collection at Icarus Films is proud to distribute three films by Pema Tseden. Discover more of our featured filmmakers.

More information: The New York Times profile on Pema Tseden from 2019, NPR on Pema Tseden, New York Times obituary from 2023

"Tseden's work is remarkable for shedding light on daily life in an oft-mythologized part of the world. In his films, Tibet isn't Shangri-La but neither is it just another part of China." —Steven Erickson, Sight & Sound

"The most important independent Tibetan filmmaker." —Shelly Kraicer, Vancouver International Film Festival

"His ability to speak eloquently of individual despair and the emergency of cultural obliteration is masterful; his ability to do this in films of such eloquent, quiet beauty is nothing short of astonishing." —Cinema Scope

"Pema Tseden is a name you're going to be much more familiar with in the coming years. With his strong sense of visual composition and a dedication to presenting the real Tibet, it's only a matter of time before Cannes starts lapping his films up." —indieWIRE

"Tseden reveals his homeland—and more importantly, its contemporary social life—in a uniquely authentic way." —The Trace Foundation

"Tseden's films [are] impeccably composed; he captures the pace of this specific geography." —The Margins from The Asian American Writers' Workshop

"[Tseden] has emerged at the forefront of a new movement in Tibetan filmmaking." —Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center, Indiana University


Pema Tseden’s new film: on the path of life, sometimes we meet someone whose dreams overtake our own to the point that they converge.

Pema Tseden | 2019 | 87 minutes | Color | Tibetan | English subtitles

A family on the Himalayan plains discovers their dog is worth a fortune, but selling it comes at a terrible price.

PEMA Tseden | 2012 | 88 minutes | Color | Tibetan | English subtitles

A film crew travels through Tibet, searching for actors for their adaptation of a classic Buddhist story.

Pema Tseden | 2013 | 105 minutes | Color | Tibetan | English subtitles