"Heartfelt look at the resilience of the human spirit."
LA Times, Susan King
"Gyatso is engaging, charming, and riveting his story horrifying."
ABC News, Nancy Ramsey
"Powerful doc"
Time Out Magazine, Drew Toal


Fire Under the Snow



An Imakoko Media production, in association with Argot Pictures, Surla Films. (International sales: Surla Films, New York.) Produced by Makoto Sasa. Co-producers, Jim Browne, Vladan Nikolic. Directed by Makoto Sasa. Written by Sasa, Aaron Mendez.

With: Palden Gyatso, Manfred Nowak, Lawrence Gerstein, Tenzin Tsundue, Ana Adhe, Lobsang Khenrab.
Well-crafted docu "Fire Under the Snow" concerns septuagenarian Tibetan monk Palden Gyatso, who, imprisoned and tortured for 33 years, became a rallying cry for his country's liberation. New York-based filmmaker Makoto Sasa contrasts the horror of the story and the serenity of its teller for dramatic impact. Now perched high atop a mountain in India, Gyatso asserts his faith that if people knew the injustice he and his countrymen endure, they would end it; Sasa then proceeds to illustrate that injustice and the world's reaction to it. Recent, well-publicized anti-Olympic Games brouhaha assures pic longevity in fest and educational play.

Helmer Sasa intersperses Gyatso's calm remembrance of seemingly endless torture and starvation with newsreel footage of civil unrest and Chinese brutality. She bookends Gyatso's three-decades-long ordeal with coverage of the indefatigable monk's worldwide activism: He participates in marches and demonstrations with the same calm deliberation he invests in making tea or in matter-of-factly recounting the loss of all his teeth via cattle prod. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Gyatso leads a hunger strike to protest China's hosting of the 2008 games, but economics trump human rights yet again.

Camera (B&W/color, HD), Vladimir Subotic; editor, Milica Zec. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Discovery), April 25, 2008. English, Tibetan dialogue. Running time: 75 MIN.

News & Press

“They seemed an unlikely pair — the Tibetan Buddhist monk who had spent 33 years in Chinese prisons and labor camps and the aspiring Japanese filmmaker.”

Daniel E. Slotnik , New York Times

"If you think you're lost, you're lost. If you think you're a winner, you're a winner."

…said Palden Gyatso, as he was trying to explain to us the secret to his inner strength.

Rachelle J. Hruska, Guest of a Guest

“Gyatso’s unwavering faith in the face of horrific circumstances would make for essential viewing.”

Sara Cardace, New York Magazine


“Powerful Doc”

Drew Toal,Time Out Magazine

“A harrowing and inspiring film.”

Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter

“Heartfelt look at the resilience of the human spirit.”

Susan King, LA Times

"Fascinating and frightening documentary.”

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com

“Taking Reverend Al’s mantra of ‘No Justice, No Peace’ to another level!”

Bevy Smith, Papermag

"Gyatso is engaging, charming, and riveting his story horrifying."

Nancy Ramsey , ABC NEWS


“Be warned: The opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics might look a little different if you see Makoto Sasa's disturbing documentary beforehand. “

Elizabeth Weitzman, Daily News

“Well-crafted docu...Makoto Sasa contrasts the horror of the story and the serenity of its teller for dramatic impact”

Ronnie Scheib, Variety