About The Filmmakers | Filmography


Ritu Sarin was born in New Delhi. She finished her schooling in London and returned to India to do her undergraduate studies at Delhi University. She then studied German and moved to Brussels, where she worked for three years at the Tea Board of India as one of their marketing representatives. This involved non-stop travel throughout Europe, wearing nice saris, smiling a lot and drinking endless cups of tea at various trade fairs. Having always had a passion for cinema, Ritu then decided to study filmmaking and did an MFA in Film and Video from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

Tenzing Sonam was born in Darjeeling in northeastern India of Tibetan refugee parents. After graduating from Delhi University in 1978, he worked for a year in the Tibetan Government-in-exile in Dharamsala. He then travelled for a few years, working at a number of odd jobs – dishwasher, landscape "artist" (lawn-mowing and cleaning swimming pools), manager of a car wash, etc. – in Switzerland, New York, Scottsdale and Los Angeles before ending up at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, where he specialized in documentary filmmaking.

Ritu and Tenzing worked on their first film together as a joint thesis project. The New Puritans: The Sikhs of Yuba City was completed in 1985 and won a number of awards in America. The film was picked up by NAATA and subsequently broadcast on national PBS and the Learning Channel.

While living in the Bay Area, Ritu and Tenzing became involved in the fledgling Tibet support group movement and were among the founder-members of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet, which subsequently became an influential pressure group in America. To the surprise – some would say, horror – of their Bay Area friends, they left sunny California for surly London in 1987, to work for the Meridian Trust, a film and video archive specializing in Buddhist and Tibet related material. Between 1987 and 1990, they helped the Trust develop its archives and were involved in documenting on video a number of historic trips made by the Dalai Lama in Norway, America and the former Soviet Union.

In 1990, they formed White Crane Films and started work on The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche, an independently produced documentary shot on 16mm. Soon after the completion of the film, they left the Meridian Trust to devote themselves full-time to filmmaking. They lived and worked in London until 1996 when they decided to temporarily move to Dharamsala in India to be closer to the exile Tibetan community about which they planned to make a feature film. That project, Poison Charm, is now underway.

Somewhere along the line, Ritu and Tenzing got married and had two kids – Mila, a boy, was born in 1992 and Maya, a girl, followed in 1994.

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