The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
March 28, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam's gorgeous and moving film, "The Sweet Requiem," is driven by the graceful acting of Tenzin Dolker.
In the film, she portrays Dolkar, a Tibet-born esthetician living in modern-day Delhi who navigates deep childhood trauma from a harrowing Himalayan journey. She and her father were on their way to India in search of a better life there.
Dolker's portrayal becomes especially nuanced as upsetting revelations about this trek accumulate and inflict more emotional anguish.
Incredibly enough, "The Sweet Requiem" is her acting debut—and she had to be convinced to audition for the film. She was busy with the process of immigrating to the U.S. when she initially saw a social media call for auditions.
However, she ended up taping a try-out video after a good friend reached out and encouraged her to apply. "The rest is history," Dolker recalls.
The first-time actress was drawn to the film for personal reasons—namely that she was born and raised in a refugee settlement in India, and heard her own father tell "extraordinary" stories about what it was like to flee Tibet.
"I grew up hearing these stories, and eventually come to realize my connection with their story and continuation of the story," she says. "I then began to share those stories at various levels. This story [in the film] was one such platform, and a call to tell their story."
Dolker, who is also a dancer, yoga instructor, and photographer, naturally drew on her own life experiences as she approached portraying Dolkar.
"I wanted my character [to be] someone who is joyful, passionate, rooted, open, resilient—yet fragile, secretive, and alone," she explains. "Approaching her character came natural to me, since I identify myself in her or she in me in so many ways."
However, she also felt a responsibility toward other people she knows who have similar life experiences as she acted—and emphasizes the important messages "The Sweet Requiem" conveys.
"[The film] addresses issues of our Tibetan community as well as of refugees around the globe," she says. "The constant struggle to survive; to assert as full-fledged human beings; the struggle to adapt to a new life and integrate, while also living with the fear of losing culture and identity; the constant guilt of living in exile while making effort to find peace with the past.
"I hope this story helps people create more space in their heart and find empathy for the ones who are driven away from home, for whatever reasons," she adds, "[and] allows people to view others as human beings—and beyond labels [such as] 'refugees,' 'migrants' or 'immigrants.'"
PHOTO: Tenzin Dolker plays the role of Dolkar, a young refugee who relives a childhood trauma in search of retribution and closure. Movie still by Pablo Bartholomew.
Download Related PDF [1.6 MB]