TIFF 2018 The Sweet Requiem Review

TIFF 2018: The Sweet Requiem Review

Contemporary World Cinema

The Sweet Requiem, directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, begins with a march in the snow. A minute or so later, there are gunshots and casualties, and in the midst of it all is a little girl who has fled from her homeland of Tibet to seek a better life in South Delhi. Both directors should be commended for bringing the experiences of Tibetan refugees to the big screen; however, the film does suffer from repetitive scenes and limited characterization. Despite this, the resolution of the film’s central mystery is emotionally resonant and may be worth your patience.

Dolkar (played by Tenzin Dolker) calls the maze-like warrens of Ramesh Market in South Delhi home along with other Tibetan refugees. At twenty-six years of age, she works as a beautician, enjoys working out at a dance studio, and may have feelings for her friend Dorjee, who is a Tibetan human rights activist. Dolkar is an activist of her own as well, making no secret of her Tibetan pride–her simple home features a picture of the Dalai Lama and a poster of Tibetans who have self-immolated, entitled “Burning for Tibet.”

The film features a number of repetitive scenes in which no real developments occur: no stakes are raised and the same dialogue (with mild variations) is spoken. The story is such that these repetitive scenes are not only unnecessary, but dilute the increasing tension between Tenzin and the activist. I would replace these scenes with more scenes depicting Dolkar’s life in South Delhi –the cultural clash between Tibetan traditions and living within the hustle and bustle of Delhi would be fascinating for audiences to explore. For example, Dolkar (embodied by Dolker) is a great dancer at a Delhi dance studio–but is it an escape from reality, or an attempt to assimilate? The lit match Dolkar plays with would seem to indicate that it is the former.


Especially in the present, where there are many refugee crises across the world, an examination of what it means to flee home is of extreme importance. My hope is that the directors’ next projects will avoid unnecessary filler and allow their story to stand strong.