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Alice Magazine

Shadow Puppets
by Teana Lopez

Tibet, as a county, has become a celebrity cause of late spurring "Out of Tibet" stickers and Tibet freedom concerts. Everyone wants to espouse the beauty and harmony of it's devoutly religious and peace loving people. But when celebrities and historians speak of Tibet, they omit the fact that thousands of Tibetans once took up arms against the invading forces of Communist China, in a bitter, bloody, and ultimately losing war, aided by an unlikely ally-America.

Indian-born, American-educated filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam have pulled together unseen archival footage and exclusive interviews with former resistance fighters and surviving CIA operatives, in a brave new documentary on the CIA's involvement in The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet (White Crane Films/BBC TV)

Between 1957 and 1969 the Central Intelligence Agency armed, financed, and helped to train Tibetan guerrillas who operated, first inside Tibet, and later-after the Dalai Lama's escape to India in 1959-from a base in Mustang, a remote corner of northwestern Nepal. This project, code-named ST CIRCUS, was one of the CIA's longest running covert operations. The withdrawal of the CIA's support in 1969 was as abrupt as its initial involvement was unexpected, say the filmmakers. Initially Tibet simply fit into America's larger policy of destabilizing Communist regimes. America had no plans to, as the Tibetans thought, help them win the battle. We simply wanted to mess with them a bit.

A riveting and saddening documentary, Shadow Circus (now on the festival circuit) investigates this unknown chapter in Tibet's recent history and introduces us to the expendable people who's lives were caught in the crossfire between political maneuvering and cultural annihilation.

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