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A Year In Tibet

A Year In TibetIn the 21st Century you would scarcely
  expect to find an extraordinary land
  where some things have changed little
  since ancient times — but it was the
  subject of a successful BBC television
  series, now available for the first
  time on DVD: A Year In Tibet...”

A MAGICAL KINGDOM WHERE THE PAST SITS IN HARMONY with the present, Tibet was the subject of a landmark five-part documentary television series that is now available on DVD. A Year In Tibet is a well constructed, colourful and compelling factual film from which you can discover how ordinary Tibetans live and work today while respecting the ancient traditions handed down through countless generations.

This breathtaking series opens a window on the Mediaeval town of Gyantse, in Southern Tibet, and its fabulous Baijin monastery — one of Tibet's most important and famous monasteries and where the Buddhist Order is renowned more for its artistic achievement than for its devotion. The monks excel in architectural drawing, crafts and painting.

Surrounded by snow-topped peaks and steep hillsides, Gyantse is an intriguing mix of the traditional and modern. It is Tibet's third largest town, partly made up of narrow streets and traditional wooden houses and part modern commercial centre. It has a population of around 8,000 people — most of whom are traditional Tibetans living in the old part of the town; the rest are the Chinese, who live in the new part. Gyantse also has its own, western-style, hospital.

Since 1951, the ordinary people of the country — officially The Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China — have seen dramatic and permanent changes to their lives under Chinese Communist rule.

A Year In Tibet has many beautiful images of this exotic land as it examines the reality of life today for Tibetans living under Chinese rule and offers a remarkable insight into the significance of Buddhism in everyday life — it is, in fact, the monasteries that are the biggest political challenge to Chinese government.

During the year of filming, the monks prepare for a visit from the Panchen Lama — the most senior Buddhist living in China today. It is effectively a state visit and brings with it a whole host of problems — The 11th Panchen Lama was only six when the Chinese controversially declared that he was Tibet's new spiritual leader.

Tibet has long captured the West's imagination as a secretive and unfamiliar country isolated in the midst of the world's highest mountains, The Himalayas. It is home to the highest railway station in the world and is a country of many contrasts.

Violent protests against Chinese rule brought it to the world's attention but this DVD offers an opportunity to understand Tibet through the eyes of a handful of powerful and engaging characters who live their lives in this fascinating country.

Jianzang is an hotelier struggling to attract more tourists and who feels a two-star award is more of a hindrance than a help; his Chinese friend, Su Wen Shu, seeks his advice as he launches an appeal to overturn a court ruling that he should pay nearly 6,000 (ten times more than the average Tibetan earns each year) in compensation to a neighbour with whom he was in dispute.

A village Shaman — part spiritual healer and part earthly adviser, Shamans were around long before Buddhism came to Tibet from India over a thousand years ago — is concerned that a rain cannon will damage his business; Tsephun, at 15 the youngest monk at the local monastery, is keen to make an impression; a young girl does not find out about her arranged marriage until her wedding day and a 34-year-old doctor becomes ill herself and, like many superstitious Tibetans, doesn't want to put all her faith into western medicine.

The documentary also looks at the alcohol abuse that is a problem in Tibet, why barley is so important to the Tibetans, how the people celebrate their New Year and how some youngsters get to go to University — complete with mobile phone.

With unprecedented access to one of the most remote and mysterious parts of the world, A Year In Tibet is a unique and intimate portrait of a land that time has, in many ways, forgotten. Over the course of the year and with the changing seasons, Tibet proves itself to be a fascinating country and this documentary should not be missed. The series is written and Produced by Peter Firstbrook and is narrated by Chris Bowen. The haunting music is by Maurice Ashkenazi-Bakes, Editor is Sue Haycock and the Series Director is Sun Shuyun.

A Year In Tibet, a BBC DVD, is released as a double-disc DVD and is out now (released on 28 July, 2008) at an RRP of 19.99. Duration: 5 x 50 minutes approximately | Catalogue number: BBCDVD2277.

"A Year In Tibet is a well constructed, colourful and compelling factual film from which you can discover how ordinary Tibetans live and work today while respecting the ancient traditions handed down through countless generations" — MotorBar