Program 1 - Sunday, March 1st

The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet

Production Credits

Director : Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam

Writer : Tenzing Sonam

Release Date : 1998

Genre : documentary

Runtime : 49 min

Country : Nepal/India/USA

Language : English/Tibetan with English subtitles

Company : White Crane Films


The Shadow Circus: CIA in Tibet

The Tibetan people are well known for being devoutly religious and peace loving. What is less known is that thousands of Tibetans took up arms against the invading forces of Communist China and waged a bitter and bloody guerrilla war. From the mid-1950s until 1969 they were aided in their efforts by an unlikely ally, the CIA. 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: the Tibetans had simply fitted into America's larger policy of destabilising or overthrowing Communist regimes, and when that no longer applied, they were abandoned. With unique archive footage and exclusive interviews with former resistance fighters and surviving CIA operatives, The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet reveals for the first time this hitherto unknown chapter in Tibet's recent history - a tale that is both heroic and tragic, full of sad ironies and unexpected twists that overturn all preconceptions about both Tibet and the CIA.


Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam

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.

Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam

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.