Pema Tseden, Tibet New Wave Film Director, Dies at 53

Pema Tseden, the Tibetan art house film director known for “Jinpa” and “Balloon,” has died. He was 53.

It is understood that he was in Tibet when he died suddenly of an unspecified illness. Some unconfirmed Chinese-language media said that he had a heart attack.

The news was reported by the China Academy of Art, where he taught as a professor.

“Pema Tseden, a famous Tibetan director, screenwriter and professor at the Film School of the China Academy of Art, died in Tibet in the early hours of May 8 due to an acute illness. Due to the sudden incident, the school will work with Mr Tseden’s family to deal with the follow up matters. The relevant information will be announced in due course,” the Academy said in a statement.

Pema Tseden, who also used the Chinese name Wanmaciadan, was ethnically Tibetan and choose to work within the official Chinese film system of script approvals, censorship and release permits. He was the first Tibetan student to graduate from the prestigious Beijing Film School.

The director had also received government approval to shoot another film known variously as “Stranger” and “Have a Nice Trip” about a man riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle round Tibet looking for a woman.

“Such terrible, terrible, terribly sad news of your passing, Pema Tseden, one of the most distinctive voices of contemporary cinema. I wish this wasn’t true,” wrote Kiki Fung, programmer at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, on Facebook.

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