Ngawang Choephel was born in Tibet. He and his mother fled the Chinese occupation there when he was two years old. A Middlebury College Fulbright scholar, Choephel returned there in 1995 to make a documentary on Tibetan music and culture. He was arrested by Chinese authorities, and sentenced to 18 years in prison for spying. Choephel was released after six years and he shows his film to help tell the story of Tibet.
The Chinese Government released Ngawang Choephel in 2002 for medical reasons. There had been strong lobbying by U.S. officials, including Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords, to gain his release.