‘The Sweet Requiem’ Review: Tibetan Activists Confront a Shared Tragic Past

‘The Sweet Requiem’ Review: Tibetan Activists Confront a Shared Tragic Past

The opening shot of “The Sweet Requiem,” a sometimes compelling film by the wife-and-husband directing team of Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, instantly seizes your attention. Two figures, not quite in focus and seen from behind, from their calves down to their feet, trudge through fresh white snow.

Their breathing is heavy. There are others in their party — several adults and one child, headed toward a formidable mountain range. Suddenly, gunshots ring out.

We don’t return to this scene, and its unexplained action, for some time. First we are taken to South Delhi, where Dolkar (Tenzin Dolker), a young woman from Tibet, walks in on a small surprise party.

Sarin and Sonam sketch a story ultimately centered on Tibetan communities in North and South Delhi. Dolkar works at a threading salon and is active in human rights organizations addressing the plight of Tibetan Buddhist refugees. In the course of her social justice work, Dolkar encounters a man she once knew as Gompo (Jampa Kalsang Tamang), whom she holds responsible for a past tragedy but who is now involved in activism. He’s being threatened by Chinese spies, and Dolkar is asked to help him, which doesn’t sit well with her.

The location shooting, with its nighttime shots of jam-packed multilane roads and eerily empty alleys, deftly conveys both the bustle and the quiet moments of Delhi working-class life. The plot intrigues are arguably appropriate to genre pictures, but “Requiem” manages to play out as an urgent but understated drama. The film puts its points across with a delicacy and sobriety rare in moviemaking.

The Sweet Requiem

Not rated. In Tibetan, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

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