Vermont International Film Festival to Screen Documentary About Humanitarian Award-Winning Doctor

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Visioning Tibet, which tells the story of Dr. Marc Lieberman and the Tibet Vision Project, is screening in competition in the “Human Rights and Justice” category of the Vermont International Film Festival (VIFF). The festival is the oldest human rights and environmental film festival in the world.

The Vermont International Film Festival (VIFF) will be screening Visioning Tibet, a feature documentary about humanitarian-award winning doctor, Marc Lieberman and the work of the Tibet Vision Project on Sunday, October 16th at 1:00 pm at The Firehouse in downtown Burlington, VT. The film is screening in competition in the “Human Rights and Justice” category.

Visioning Tibet “…vividly documents a miraculous project in Tibet…a tremendously worthwhile film…” said His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.

Visioning Tibet chronicles the passion of ophthalmologist Marc Lieberman, founder of the Tibet Vision Project. His mission: to end preventable blindness in Tibet — which has the highest rate of untreated cataract blindness in the world — by 2020. Bringing light where there was once darkness, Lieberman’s work has been recognized by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which named him 2003 Humanitarian of the Year.

The film tells the stories of two of Tibetans — Karma and Lhasang — who have one last chance at restored sight.

Karma, 52, is from a small northern Tibetan village. A farmer, he works the land that his family has farmed for generations. Karma has only left home to barter in a neighboring village and to make religious pilgrimages. For two years, he has been gradually losing his eyesight, preventing him from working in the fields. His one wish, if his sight is restored, is to make a pilgrimage to a lake sacred in Tibetan Buddhism. Lhasang, 56, is patriarch of a nomadic family. Like his ancestors before him, he herds yak and goats on the plains of northern and central Tibet. Lhasang’s blindness has made him unable to provide for his family, darkening both his mood and outlook on life.

The film follows the two men as they make the arduous journey to a remote clinic in the hopes of having their sight restored by Tibetan doctors, who have received technology and skill training through the Tibetan Vision Project.

In order to shoot the documentary, Solotaroff had to keep crew and equipment to a bare minimum — just a director/producer and camera/sound person — in order not to raise suspicions of the Chinese authorities. Local volunteers were used as grips and camera assistants. If the Chinese officials had known that the crew was shooting a documentary, it’s movements would have been closely monitored and restricted. Filming took nearly three years. Visioning Tibet uses breathtaking cinematography to provide a view of contemporary Tibet and its people seldom seen by international audiences

Dr. Marc Lieberman founded the Tibet Vision Project in 1995. The Tibet Vision Project operates as a non-governmental organization (NGO). It is one of the few NGOs or international health organizations able to function in Chinese – ruled Tibet. For the past 10 years, “Dr. Marc” has made biannual one-month trips to Tibet, leading a team of doctors, nurses and technicians he has trained. Together, they run “eye camps” that provide basic eye care and perform up to 120 cataract operations in four days. To date, the project has restored sight to over 3,000 Tibetans. The Project’s 10th anniversary was lauded in the Congressional Record in July.

In the 1980’s, Lieberman became involved in Buddhist meditation and practice and active in Buddhist communities throughout northern California. He organized a series of meetings in the US and India between The Dalai Lama and Jewish scholars and rabbis, during which time he learned of cataract blindness crisis in Tibet. These meetings were the basis of the book of The Jews in the Lotus.

Producer/Director Isaac Solotaroff is an award-winning producer, director and editor. He was co-producer, co-director and editor of his first film, Jews and Buddhism: Belief Amended, Faith Revealed. Narrated by Sharon Stone, the film was chosen “one of the outstanding documentaries of 1999” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film was shown at over 30 international film festivals and screened on PBS.

Solotaroff was co-producer and editor of Los Romeros: The Royal Family of the Guitar, which was nominated for a “best biography” Emmy in 2001 and broadcast nationally on PBS. He has also edited several award-winning documentaries including, Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme (HBO Best Documentary, Urban World Film Festival) and Smokestack Lightening (Best Documentary, Memphis Film Festival)

The film has previously been shown at the International Buddhist, Woods Hole, Tahoe-Reno, Mt. Shasta and Taos Mountain Film Festivals, as well as at the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art.

The Vermont International Film festival is the oldest human rights and environmental film festival in the world. For 20 years, VIFF has provided a forum for films dealing with issues of war and peace, justice and human rights and the environment.

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Leslie J. Yerman