HAF Hosts Film Screening Shattering Bhutan's Image as a "Shangri-La"
Berkeley, CA (August 18, 2014) -- Nearly 100 people gathered at the University of California Berkeley on Sunday, August 10 for an exclusive film screening of the internationally acclaimed documentary, The Refugees of Shangri-La: The Untold Story of Bhutanese Refugees. Hosted by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), the Bhutanese Community in California (BCC), and filmmakers Doria Bramante and Markus Weinfurter, the film screening shattered Bhutan's celebrated image as a "Shangri-la", and exposed the Himalayan kingdom's treatment of its minority Lhotshampa (mostly Hindu ethnic Nepali) population.
The documentary highlighted the plight of the 107,000 Lhotshampa refugees, who fled Bhutan more than 20 years ago under the government's discriminatory "One Nation, One People" policies that sought to forcibly homogenize the country to the majority Buddhist Drukpa (ethnic Tibetan) culture. From Bhutan to bamboo hut refugee camps in Nepal to resettlement in the United States, the film followed the journey of these refugees, and their challenges and triumphs along the way.
Following the screening, the filmmakers were joined by Rajen Giri (Chairman) and Mohan Tamang (Executive Director) of the BCC for a lively panel discussion. The filmmakers described their inspiration for making the film and the status of those refugees still remaining in the camps in Nepal, while Giri and Tamang shared their own personal journeys from Bhutan to the U.S. and noted outstanding issues that need to be addressed with the Government of Bhutan.
"This film goes a long way in raising awareness about the historical injustice that has befallen the Bhutanese Hindu refugees and the failure to hold Bhutan accountable for their actions," said HAF's Director/Senior Human Rights Fellow, Samir Kalra, Esq. who moderated the panel. "It also underscores the need to support the resettled Bhutanese Hindu community here in the U.S., which numbers around 70,000."
The Foundation recently launched the Bhutanese American Project in support of Bhutanese Hindus struggling to maintain their religion, culture, and traditions as they resettle in America. Through the project, HAF has distributed $5,000 in grants to Bhutanese communities across the country and plans a Congressional Briefing on Bhutan in Washington, D.C. later this year.