Submitted by Julio M
The film revolves around the Dalai Lama, from the time when he is found and brought to the Potala Palace, in Lhasa, when he is still a little boy, to his coming-of-age and eventual full involvement in the spiritual and political guidance of Tibet, as well as his enthronement as the 14th Dalai Lama; all the while, the newly formed People’s Republic Of China claims the Tibetan territory as theirs and end up invading it and annexing it, despite the Tibet’s attempts to remain an independent nation.
In time, they turn intolerant and oppressive towards the Tibetans, and “Kundun” (the other name by which the Dalai Lama was known, meaning PRESENCE) tries to negotiate cooperation and autonomy with Chairman Mao, but, sadly, these meetings lead nowhere, as the Communists see the Tibetans’ Buddhist faith as “poison and inferiority from which they are to be rescued”.
Kundun’s position and life comes to the point in which is gravely threatened by the Chinese regime and, after knowing about the relentless atrocities committed against his people, as well as how he is in danger of being killed, his family and cabinet convince him to flee to India.
After consulting the Nechung Oracle for a safe escape route, Kundun and his closest advisors, disguised as soldiers, flee Lhasa at nighttime and embark on a treacherous journey through the mountains, with the Chinese in pursuit. At this point, the movie’s plot back-and-forths between the escape journey and scenes showing: the Tibetans worried about their leader and wishing him well; a spiritual process Kundun undertakes to prepare himself for his odissey, which includes undoing a sand mandala as a sacrifice; and visions Kundun has of both his exile journey and his possible return being successful, but, sadly, also, his most trusted men paying with their lives for their loyalty to their Leader.
Eventually, ill and tired, he makes it to India, where a guard welcomes him at the border pass. After setting himself in his new residence, Kundun assembles his telescope, which he uses to gaze towards the Himalayas, and Tibet. The film ends with title cards informing that (at the time of its release) Kundun hasn’t returned yet to Tibet, but he hopes to do so one day.