Tibetan Director’s Film ‘Tharlo’ Set for National China Release

The Tibetan-language film has already screened to critical acclaim in the US and UK.


Tharlo (塔洛), Tibetan director Pema Tseden’s drama adapted from his own novella, has secured a Chinese cinematic release for December 9.

The film follows a 40-year-old shepherd whose quiet life is disrupted when he has to go to the city to get his first ID photo.

Tharlo will first have a limited release on November 18 in Tibet, Xining, Lanzhou, and Chengdu where the bulk of China’s Tibetan population live.

Tseden, whose Chinese Mandarin name is Wanma Caidan, told China Film Insider the film hasn’t been censored and is exactly the same as the version screened overseas.

The film will be distributed within China by Beijing Taihe Entertainment Co., which has distributed other arthouse films such as Kaili Blues (路边野餐) and What’s in The Darkness (黑处有什么).

Producing is Beijing-based Heaven Pictures, which also produced Berlinale title River Road (家在水草丰茂的地方) and Kaili Blues.

Pema’s past films include Old Dog (老狗), The Silent Holy Stones (静静的嘛呢石), and The Search (寻找智美更登). He was the first director in China ever to film movies entirely in the Tibetan language.

In late June China’s film community raised concerns after the award-winning director was hospitalized following a scuffle at an airport in the northwestern province of Qinghai.

China Film Community Alarmed by Detention of Tibetan Director

Tharlo was shot completely in black and white, premiered in Venice’s Orizzonte section, and was nominated for the Venice Horizons Award.

The film was also nominated four times at the 52nd Golden Horse Awards including for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography for Lyu Songye.

Sales company Asian Shadows, which is run by Beijing-based French producer Isabelle Glachant, picked up the international rights to the film in September and it has already screened in the US and the UK.

“The reaction from overseas audiences has been very good,” director Pema Tseden told China Film Insider. “The film has also been received quite well by foreign critics.”

The director expects both ethnically Han Chinese and Tibetan Chinese audiences will enjoy the film even more than foreign audiences as “they understand the story background better.”

“However I don’t set out to divide the audience into groups,” said the director. “Tharlo’s story is relevant to people of any ethnicity from any region.”

“As the director of the film, I can only add this — Tharlo’s story is our story.”

— Additional reporting by Qingyuan Wang