Renowned Tibetan film director and author Pema Tseden died at the young age of 54 in Lhasa. Some Chinese-language media said that he had a heart attack.
Following the news of Pema’s sudden death on 8 May 2023, several poets, artists, and authors who admire his works, including reputed Tibetan poet Kyabchen Dedrol and artist Shide Nyima inside Tibet, posted his photos and works on social media, mourning the loss with heavy hearts.
On the 5th of this month, Pema Tseden posted three photos of his new film called The Stranger and wrote, “Greetings to young filmmakers.” It has been the last post on his WeChat moment.
On March 29, regarding his new film The Stranger, it was noted on China’s Tibetan internet that his film, The Stranger, has been produced successfully in Batang County in Kham, Tibet. Pema Tseden directs this film, and the lead roles are played by Tibetan singers Wangdon Tso, Jinpa, and Gedun. The film depicts the journey of a stranger who came to a small village claiming that it is the birthplace of 21 Taras (Dolma). He met many girls named Dolma but could not find the Dolma that had been engraved in his heart. The story is based on Tibetan folktales.
The leading actor in Pema’s film Tharlo, Tibetan comedian Shide Nyima posted Photos of Pema on social media and wrote that it is very sad. Another Tibetan posted Pema’s photos writing that it is a massive loss to the world of art, thought, innovation, and Tibetans. “It is he (Pema Tseden), who pioneered Tibetan filmmaking. He also introduced Tibet’s cultural tradition, customs, and modernity through films, impacting wide audiences. He is a revolutionary. Alas! Such is the fate of Tibet!”
On the night of June 25, 2016, traveling from Beijing to Xining, he was arrested on an alleged charge of disrupting the airport rule by airport policemen at Xining airport when he was going to look for his luggage left in the arrival hall. Later he was taken into custody in Xining and interrogated and beaten. During detention, he experienced vertigo, chest congestion, and limb numbness. He was admitted to the hospital in an emergency on June 17 and received medical treatment. Due to severe beatings, his body was covered in bruises and cuts. Following the incident, Chinese authorities closely observed his daily movement.
Born into a nomadic family in 1969 in Trika village, Tsolo in Amdo, Pema Tseden was a film director, author, and translator. After majoring in film studies at the prestigious Beijing Film Academy in 2002, he worked as a film director and scriptwriter. He has directed over 14 films, including The Silent Holy Stones, The Search, Old Dog, The Sacred Arrow, Tharlo, Jinpa, and Balloon. People from inside and outside Tibet have widely applauded his notable works. He is the one who introduced contemporary Tibetan cinema to the global film industry, and his films have won several awards at international film festivals. He is regarded as the ambassador of Tibet’s film industry. His famous film, Tharlo, has garnered 12 various accolades in China and overseas.