Film Forum Opening and the Politics of Reviews

The New York weather finally cleared up after a brief return to winter-like conditions, and Wednesday was fortunately a dry day; the sun, you could say, appeared from behind the clouds! The 8 pm screening was packed, a full house. There were many friends, family members and acquaintances in the audience. The foyer of the Film Forum was temporarily turned into a Tibetan activist space as members of Students for a Free Tibet set up a table and handed out literature and petitioned for jailed filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen.

Mike Maggiore, the genial programmer and publicist of Film Forum who, along with the rest of the staff, has been incredibly supportive of both the film and the Tibet cause, introduced us and moderated the q&a afterwards. The audience response was genuinely positive and we were touched that so many people came up to us later to tell us how the film had moved them and provoked them into thinking differently about the Tibet situation. We then repaired to the nearby Bubble Lounge where Yodon Thonden, long-term Tibet activist and supporter, sponsored an after-screening party. Our thanks also to Emmanuelle Chiche, managing director of the Bubble Lounge for hosting the party. Everyone had a great time and it was a fitting end to a long-anticipated event, fraught with expectation.

The successful opening night and an equally good second day bode well for the rest of the run, and have been all the more encouraging because only the day before, the long-awaited New York Times review had dropped on us like a bombshell. It was a dismissive review of the most superficial kind and made us wonder if the reviewer had actually focused on the film, or had simply brought to bear all his prejudices about Tibet and the Dalai Lama onto his critique. This was all the more distressing because as every filmmaker knows, the New York Times review carries a huge clout and can make or break a film. Fortunately, none of the other reviews were even close to being as negative; in fact, the majority were solidly positive (for a list, please go to Press). This brought home to us once again how fragile and exposed we filmmakers (and artists of all ilk) are when it comes to the whims and vagaries of the press and market forces, and how years of hard work can be brought down in an instant by one critic’s flippant comments. Still, as the Film Forum folks told us, some movies are review-proof and hopefully, this is one of them!

On other news, after much deliberation and discussion, we have decided to pursue a hybrid model for our American distribution. Balcony Releasing will secure theatrical engagements for the film across America. Zeitgeist Films will handle the non-theatrical DVD sales and semi-theatrical bookings. We’re thrilled to be working with these two very reputable and respected companies.