Film Film Reviews

Venice 2019: Director Pema Tseden Talks ‘Balloon’ And Tibetan Film

Director Pema Tseden joins us on Close-up Culture for a quick chat about his seventh feature film, Balloon (Qiqiu), ahead of its premiere at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival.

Synopsis: On the Tibetan grasslands, Darje and Drolkar live a serene and ordinary life with their three sons and the grandfather. A condom sparks a series of embarrassment and dilemma, breaking the harmony of the family. What matters more in the circle of life and death, soul or reality?

Q: You won an award for Best Screenplay with ‘Jinpa’ at the Venice Film Festival in 2018. What does it mean to return to the festival with ‘Balloon’?

A: For me it means achieving new results to my work. 

Q: Can you tell us more about the story and why a condom has such an impact this Tibetan family?

A: There are actually more social issues behind this story, involving some realistic and surreal aspects.

Q: The film also explores the relationship between reality and the soul. Can you expand on that and why it interested you?

A: Because in Tibetan areas, people may be more concerned with the problems of metaphysical souls, in addition to concerns about the reality of survival.

Q: When I see a red balloon on film, my mind immediately drifts to Albert Lamorisse. What significance or meaning does the balloon have in your film?

It is a very important construct, and it means it can’t be tolerated in life.

Q: The clips that I’ve seen of ‘Balloon’ are stunning. What was your approach to the visual style of the film?

A: Find a unique form that suits this unique story.


Q: As a leading voice in Tibetan who reaches international audiences, do you ever feel added pressure in the films you make? 

A: One thing, because everyone has a preconceived impression of Tibetan areas, it is a bit difficult to try to break this preconceived impression.

Q: You’ve been making feature films since 2005. How do you view your growth as a filmmaker over that time?

A: On the one hand, like all directors/writers, it is for the purpose of expression; on the other hand, there is a sense of mission that drives you to continue to create.

Q: What about the growth of Tibetan film in that time? Do you see room for more filmmakers and more stories to be told?

A: Growth is slow and difficult, but it is always developing. There is a little space, but you need to find a way to develop.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from ‘Balloon’?

A: I hope to bring the audience some thoughts about the soul and reality. In this moment this may be important to everyone.

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