Review: The Sweet Requiem (Kyoyang Ngarmo)

Tenzin Dolker in The Sweet Requiem

The Sweet Requiem (Kyoyang Ngarmo) explores the plight of Tibet and Tibetan refugees living in Delhi, India through the story of one woman. Dolkar (Tenzin Dolker) made the difficult trek from Tibet to India at age 8. She is now 26.

The movie moves between Dolkar’s life as an adult, and the childhood experiences she had crossing the mountains to reach India.

The film is visually rich. The mountain scenes, filmed above 15,000 feet, are sere and stunning. Delhi is polluted and crowded and grimy. The contrast couldn’t be greater.

Tenzin Dolker and Shavo Dorjee in The Sweet Requiem
Dorjee has a big crush on Dolkar. She doesn’t feel the same.

Dolkar’s friend Dorjee (Shavo Dorjee) works with the Tibetan community in Delhi. One day he picks up a man who arrives on a bus. Dorjee thinks he’s a Tibetan activist, there to help with the cause.

Climbing toward the pass on a snow covered mountain

When Dolkar sees the new man, she immediately recognizes him as Gompo (Jampa Kalsang Tamang), the man who guided her party through the mountains to the pass leading to India.

Jampa Kalsang Tamang in The Sweet Requiem
Gompo was an unreliable guide. All these years later, is he to be trusted?

The memories that come flooding back to her are not happy ones. The journey was difficult. There were great losses.

As The Sweet Requiem (Kyoyang Ngarmo) progresses, Dolkar comes to terms with her memories while she obsessively follows Gompo. We watch her struggle with forgiveness.

In telling Dolkar’s story, many things about the loneliness and longing for home and family left behind in Tibet are demonstrated. The phone service is seldom working between India and Tibet. When one of Dolkar’s many attempts to call Tibet gets through, she learns her sister is now married and has a two month old daughter.

The Chinese are a danger to Tibetans, even in India. They come after Gompo and threaten Dolkar and her family still in Tibet.

Using a likable character and her story to illustrate the issues surrounding Tibet is an effective storytelling device. The film was directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. Tenzing Sonam wrote The Sweet Requiem (Kyoyang Ngarmo). The film incorporates themes of exile, guilt, forgiveness, and the consequences of choice.

The film is in Tibetan with a smattering of Chinese and English. It was filmed mainly in India.

The film begins a theatrical release July 12 in New York at IFC Center. At some point after its theatrical run, it will be on a streamer, but I don’t know which one yet. It’s worth watching for. The film’s website might have an announcement when it finds a home on a streamer.

Although the film screened at numerous film festivals, I haven’t seen many reviews. That’s a shame, because this is a beautiful film.

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The Sweet Requiem poster

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