In Bardo

His people still in exile, his country forgotten, Tibetan musician, Tenzin Choegyal retraces his stripped past and reminds us of his nations enduring perseverance through his greatest gift, his voice.

Credits / Collaborators / Cast

Director/Cam-Op: Travis Vetier
Producer: Kairavi Desai
Writer: Tony Clamant
1st AD: Jake Mannix
Editor: Navaz Illava
DP/Cam-Op: Kevin Nguyen
Colourist: Felix Sosoishero
Sound Recordist: Josh Evans
Sound Editor: Nic Curthoys
Composer: Jordy Stitt
Graphics: Charlene Chin

In partnership with QUT, Powerhouse Theatre & Camerata Chamber Orchestra

Director's Notes

On July 28th, 2014, I was invited to a late celebration of the Dalai Lama’s Birthday in a small Himalayan Café in New Farm. There, I ate mountains of food. Music was played, prayers were sent and laughter was had. I bought raffle tickets and won nothing; I laughed at my incredible losing streak. Later that night, a man named Bhunchung Sonam sat down on the little makeshift stage and performed his poetry – a collection he had collated over all his years in exile. These were stories and poems I had never heard. I was unaware of the true struggle a whole nation had endured, being forced from their homes and thousands left behind tortured and suppressed. It was raw, painful and yet, optimistic and hopeful at once. Afterwards, Trin La, a nun, had approached me and presented me with the collection of Bhunchung Sonam’s work signed and wrapped; she had obviously recognised my relative misfortune in the raffle and gifted me his book. For the rest of that week I had read Sonam’s works and was given an intimate insight to his anguish as a Tibetan. It was here, where my drive to create a documentary on the Tibetan people had taken form. This drive rested until I was given the opportunity to bring it to life – 3 years later.

Production Diary

‘In Bardo’ is a testament to every young filmmaker with limited resources and enduring passion; the product, a film that far exceeded our goals and expectations. With 3 mirrorless hybrid cameras and a sound kit hired from the Queensland University of Technology we had captured 12 hours of footage over a just few days. Our goal was to capture the events, life and moments of Tenzin and the Tibetan Diaspora. Little had we known we would be experiencing first-hand, the struggle and perseverance of so many strong individuals.

Cinematographer and Camera Operator, Kevin Nguyen, is a very adaptive filmmaker. It can be recognised throughout his oeuvre of work that he can harness both traditional, experimental methods of framing and movement and yet compromise on neither his, nor the director’s artistic motivations. His mindset is that of a narrative filmmaker and that comes as a strength. When it is applied to ‘In Bardo’ it translates to measured, story-loaded framing and movement. Though he is a master with a cinema camera he is just as adapt with the Sony a6500 with a sigma zoom; harnessing the small body for unique movements and placements. The coverage had spoiled our vision editor for choice giving her the ability to play with creative and experimental techniques.

Vision Editor, Navaz Illava, has an astounding and enduring work ethic. Her task was by far the most difficult: condensing 12 hours of footage and 31 pages of transcripts into a short film. What transpired was restless nights, compromise, and meticulous cutting and evaluation. All the while she had completed such a task on Da Vinci Resolve – a new software to master.

Once the vision edit was locked of the film edit was locked off we went through the arduous process of sending the footage to our colourist, Felix So, who resided in Hong Kong. Though these efforts were time consuming, the results far outweighed the struggle. Felix has a keen eye for detail and was meticulous in producing a unique tone and feel for the film. For weeks, alongside the hawk-like surveillance of our Director of Photography, they produced a consistent colour palette that pays homage to the earthy tones and vibrancy of Tibetan Art and Culture.

What resulted from the technical and creative efforts of the crew, we saw In Bardo receive Best Documentary; Kevin Nguyen for Best Cinematography; Navaz Illava for Best Vision Editing; and Travis Vetier for Most Valuable Player at the QUT Film Graduate Awards. The film premiered and Academy Award Qualifying, St Kilda Film Festival and WON at the ATOM Awards.

We are honoured for such recognition so far and excited to share Tenzin’s Story and the crew’s hard work with a wider audience.


Genre: Documentary
Country: Australia
Language: English
Length in minutes: 11:28
YEAR: 2019