Program 1 - Sunday, March 1st

Raid Into Tibet

Production Credits

Director : Adrian Cowell

Adviser: George Patterson

Release Date : 1964

Genre : documentary

Runtime : 30 min

Country : UK

Filming Location : Nepal/Tibet, China

Language : English/Tibetan with English subtitles


Raid Into Tibet

Raid into Tibet is the only available film of the Tibetan guerilla fighters who carried on their resistance efforts in Tibet from the remote Mustang area of Nepal from 1960 to 1964. In May 1964, British journalist George Patterson - who had lived in Eastern Tibet before the Chinese invasion - bluffed his way into the remote Dzum valley in northern Nepal where a small detachment of the guerrilla force was based. Patterson was accompanied by a film crew | director Adrian Cowell and cameraman Chris Menges. They met with the leader, a man named Tendar, and tried to convince him to allow them to film a raid inside Tibet. Getting permission from their headquarters in Mustang would take several days.

The three-man film team traveled with the guerrillas over a 20,000 foot pass into Tibet and captured dramatic footage of the subsequent attack on a Chinese military convoy. By this time, the headquarters at Mustang had been apprised of the mission and had alerted the CIA and their Indian partners in Delhi. The CIA was furious at this lapse in security and immediately sent orders to intercept Patterson and his team before they could leave Nepal and relieve them of their film footage at any cost. But Patterson was one step ahead and both his team and their precious footage were able to escape safely from Nepal.

The resulting film, Raid into Tibet, caused a sensation on British television and provided the first glimpse of the ongoing freedom struggle caused by the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Although Patterson made no mention of the CIA's involvement in this secret war, the Americans nearly withdrew their support at what they considered an unpardonable breach of security. In retrospect, the film was the only real documentary record of the Mustang Resistance Force in action. Both Adrian Cowell and Chris Menges went on to carve names for themselves in their respective fields: Cowell, for his films on the destruction of the Amazon rainforests, and Menges as the celebrated cinematographer of, among other films, The Killing Fields.


Adrian Cowell

Adrian Cowell is an eminent filmmaker who catapulted the environmental movement to save the Amazonian rain forests through the television series The Decade of Destruction and Banking on Disaster Born in Tongshan, China in 1934 and educated at Cambridge University, Adrian Cowell has been making documentary films for five decades.

In 1955-56, he joined the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, an experience which launched his film career and his interest in Burma. The following year, he made his first foray into the rain forest of Brazil, part of a joint Oxford-Cambridge expedition of young filmmakers. These early trips became the seeds of Cowellfs award-winning epic projects. His series Opium was filmed over an eight-year period (including nine months when he was trapped behind the lines in Burma). His ten-year chronicle of the destruction of the Brazilian rain forests during the 1980fs stirred the world and contributed to the international debate on how the Amazon should be developed. In 1990, The Decade of Destruction was broadcast on Channel Four in Britain and on PBS FRONTLINE in the U.S. Adrian Cowellfs more recent British TV series include The Heroin Wars. It is a follow-up to The Opium Trail (1966), The Opium Warlords (1974) and Opium (1978).

Cowell is an environmental activist, cofounder of the Television Trust for the Environment and the author of two books on Brazilian Indians, The Heart of the Forest and The Tribe that Hides from Man. He also wrote a companion book to the TV series The Decade of Destruction.

George Patterson

George Patterson once worked as an engineer in Scotland before studying at the Missionary School of Medicine in London for a year, then going on to China and Tibet as a missionary in 1946.

From 1946-7 he studied the Chinese language in Central China and then traveled to the China-Tibet border in early 1947. With the Tibetan border town of Kangding as a base he traveled extensively in East Tibet, living among the militant tribal Khampas and learning the language while treating them medically. With the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet imminent in 1950, and his medical supplies depleted, at the request of the Khampa tribal leaders he traveled across Tibet from east to west by a previously unexplored route to alert the governments of India, Britain and USA regarding the expected Chinese invasion and to seek help for the Khampas in their resistance, arriving in India in March, 1950.

Unable to return to Tibet because of the Chinese occupation he remained on the Indian-Tibetan border towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling from 1950-61, studying the life and politics of the Himalayan and Central Asian peoples. He was requested by the Dalai Lama's family to arrange for the Dalai Lama's escape and exile in the USA, which was temporarily aborted. First as a stringer, then as a special correspondent, he wrote for The Statesman of Calcutta; the British Guardian, Daily Telegraph, and the Observer; and contributed to international newspapers and journals such as the New York Times, Spectator, China Quarterly, Readers Digest, New Republic (US), Nation (US).

In 1961-3 George returned to Britain, and had his own radio program with the B.B.C.,"Asian Affairs In The British Press," and participated in others as a commentator and book reviewer. He also broadcast with the Canadian and New Zealand and Australian Broadcasting Corporations. He entered politics in 1961 and became a Liberal candidate for the Edinburgh (West) constituency, wrote freelance for the Observer, broadcast and lectured throughout this period until he resigned from politics because of other interests. With David Astor, editor of the OBSERVER, Guy Wint and others, he helped set up, and was first director of, the International Committee For The Study Of Group Rights, now known as The Minority Rights Group