Drawing attention to both gender inequality faced by women in Tibet and ethnic discrimination faced by Tibetans in China, award-winning radio correspondent and filmmaker, Jocelyn Ford, visited Bowdoin on Tuesday to discuss her documentary, “Nowhere to Call Home.” 

The film follows a true story about Zanta, a widowed Tibetan woman who struggles to reconcile her desires to be a good daughter-in-law, following the traditions of her village and to seek an education and better future for her son in Beijing. 

“Gender in Tibetan communities has only been looked at by a very small handful of people and I think popular culture has totally ignored it,” said Ford.

Ford hopes her film will reinforce the burgeoning conversation about gender discrimination in Tibet and urge audiences worldwide to think about issues of discrimination on a global level.
“A lot of the issues in the film are really universal issues,” she said. “They happen to be happening in China with a Tibetan minority, but around the world we experience discrimination based on gender and different issues.”

When Ford created her film, she chose not to include information on recent, highly charged political issues in Tibet. This is not because she was concerned with alienating Chinese audiences, but rather because she did not expect to be allowed to show the film in China. 

However, Ford has since had the opportunity to screen it in China and hopes to spark a conversation on issues of ethnic discrimination there. Ford feels that her film is one of very few to show discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in their daily lives in China. For example, in several scenes, Zanta endures explicit discrimination directly because of her ethnicity.

“This is quite shocking to a lot of people in the People’s Republic of China, because media there is not allowed to cover this sort of dynamic,” said Ford.

Ford hopes that audiences across the globe will relate to the issues presented in her film. For American audiences, who live in a country where ethnic groups have endured and continue to endure discrimination, Zanta’s plight may bring up familiar themes.

“I’m hoping that people will reflect on their own lives, people they know, situations they’ve been in, and that in some way my film will shrink the world, because we really are all the same,” she added. 

Ford also recognized that many Bowdoin students strive, in various ways, to take action in helping people who are less advantaged.

“I would like them to take away that it’s not easy. You don’t just throw money at a problem and solve it—you really need to try to understand the mindset of the people you are working with,” she said.

By the start of filming, Ford had already been an active presence in Zanta’s life—helping her pay for her son’s education and, consequently, challenging common perceptions of journalism and documentary making. 

This is the kind of action Ford hopes to encourage—not just giving someone $100 and hoping it will all work out, but actively engaging with people and helping them to better their lives on their own terms.

For now, she urges that what students can do is watch this film and bring awareness to the issues faced by Zanta and people like her across the globe.