Ngawang Chophel

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Ngawang Choephel (right) and a friend, prepare a traditional song for 'Tibet in Song.'

Ngawang Choephel is a documentary filmmaker.

Early life[edit]

Choephel was born in Tibet in 1966, but his family fled to India in 1968.[1] In 1992, Choephel graduated from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala, India.[2] He later went to the USA to study ethnomusicology through the Fulbright program in 1993 and 1994 at Middlebury College.[3] He returned to Tibet in 1995 to make a film on traditional music and dance.

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

He was later arrested by the Chinese in September 1995 on spying charges and held incommunicado and without trial for over 14 months. Then in late 1996, he was sentenced in a secret trial to 18 years in prison for "espionage and counter-revolutionary activities". The Chinese authorities have not produced evidence to support the charges against him.

In August 2000 his mother and his uncle were allowed to visit him.[4] He told his mother Ms. Sonam Dekyi that he had been on a hunger strike in protest at not receiving proper medical care. After the visit, his mother Sonam Dekyi reported that her son Ngawang Choephel was very frail, just "skin and bones", with pale, almost yellow skin.

His case received international attention, and support from musicians including: Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox.

In 2002, Ngawang Chophel was released on "medical parole" from Chengdu prison after 6 years in jail.[5]

Film projects[edit]

"Missing in Tibet", a film realised on his story received the prize of "best Human Rights Film" at a film festival in Taos, New Mexico.[6]

Ngawang Choephel resumed working on his film, entitled "Tibet in Song" upon his release in 2002. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2009 where it won the Special Jury Award in the World Documentary Competition. Since then, "Tibet in Song" has won numerous awards and screened worldwide. Among those are: CINE Golden Eagle Award; Emerging Director Award, AAIFF; Best Documentary, Calgary International Film Festival; Cinema for Peace International Human Rights Award, Berlin; Best Documentary, San Louis Obispo International Film Festival; Special Jury Mention, One World International Film Festival Prague; Audience Award, Watch Docs International Human Rights Film Festival; Special Jury Mention, Watch Docs International Human Rights Film Festival; and Audience Award, Movies that Matter, the Hague.

"Tibet in Song" [7] made its theatrical release in New York City on September 24, 2010, with plans for U.S. and worldwide release thereafter.


  1. ^
  2. ^,9171,1000779,00.html
  3. ^ Dava Sobel, Science Writer, Best-Selling Author of 'Longitude', to Speak at Middlebury College Commencement; Middlebury to Award Honorary Degrees to Sobel, Tibetan Refugee Ngawang Choephel, Three Others
  4. ^ Statement on the Release of Ngawang Choephel
  5. ^ Les réalisateurs d’un documentaire emprisonnés au Tibet
  6. ^ Tibet documentary wins best Human Rights film award
  7. ^

External links[edit]

On release of Ngawang Choephel and his flight to Detroit, one month before President George W. Bush visits Beijing[edit]

Amnesty International appeals for the release of Ngawang Choephel[edit]