Fire Under The Snow

Fire Under Snow,  is a documentary of a Tibetan Buddhist Monk, Palden Gyatso, held prisoner for 33 years by the Chinese, during the Chinese occupation of Tibet during the 1950’s.

In 1992, Palden Gyatso finally escaped his environment after being starved and tortured for nearly his entire adult life. When he escaped, he fled across the Himalayas to India to seek refuge. Fire Under The Snow is his story. The World Premiere film was released at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2008. It will soon be released to audiences world wide. Fire Under The Snow is also a book.

Fire Under The Snow, was first published in Great Britan in 1997 by the Harvill Press. The book has been translated into several languages.

Fire Under The Snow is neither a historical story nor a mystical one. It is simply a story of one man, faced with the inhumanity of a system perpetrated in the name of progress and ideology. It is his testimony to the suffering of the Tibetan nation during the Cultural Revolution.

The forward of Fire Under The Snow, was written by the Dalai Lama.  It reads in part:  “Palden Gyatso evokes the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution with deep compassion for others who suffered with him. It was not the threat of execution that most terrified him, but the inhumanity and cruelty he was forced to witness.”

I had the distinct honor and privledge of meeting Palden Gyatso in September 2008, during his visit to Hallmark Gallery in La Jolla, California.  Hallmark Gallery, located in the center of the Village of La Jolla, on Prospect Street, has for sale the captivating photography of Phil Borges, a world renowned photographer.

Palden Gyatso, a Buddhist monk since childhood, was arrested by the Chinese Communist Army in 1959. He spent the next 33 years in prison for the "crimes" of peaceful demonstration and refusal to denounce his apolitical teacher as an Indian spy. He was tortured, starved and sentenced to hard labor. He watched his nation and culture destroyed, his teachers, friends and family displaced, jailed or killed under Chinese occupation.

Mr. Borges worked with the Dalai Lama on a collection of photographs for his book Tibetan Portrait.  Palden Gyatso is one of the portraits found in Tibetan Portrait .  Hallmark Gallery in La Jolla, also has the photograph of Palden Gyatso for sale, it hangs on our Phil Borges wall.

Palden, black and white fine art photography by photographer Phil Borges

Palden, black and white fine art photography by photographer Phil Borges

One day, a client of Hallmark Gallery, La Jolla, happened to recognize the black and white photograph taken by Phil Borges, hanging on the wall of the gallery.  He told me, ”hey, that’s Palden Gyatso, he’s a friend of mine”.

That’s how I found out about Fire Under The Snow, the book, and Fire Under The Sun, the film released by the Tribeca Film Festival.  That’s also how I came to meet Palden Gyatso.  Hallmark Gallery’s client told me that next time Palden Gyatso comes to La Jolla, he’ll bring him by Hallmark Gallery for a visit.  And so he did.  Although Palden Gyatso did not have his translator with him during his visit, this simple Tibetan Monk whose smile lights up a room, was able to communicate simply by his presence. There was a lot of sign language and gestures, but little verbal interaction since we did not speak the other’s language.

Wow. What a terrific experience. Thanks to Rob Mitchell, Hallmark Gallery’s owner, for his generosity and being the awesome person he is, and also for being present for Palden Gyatso’s gallery visit.

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