The Only Son

Simonka De Jong
The balance within a Tibetan family spread over several continents comes under strain when son Pema is forced to marry a girl from his native village.

Pema is a Tibetan whose plans for the future are being thwarted by his past. He is his parents' only son, and they want him to return to the village of his birth, marry a local girl and take care of them. He and his sisters spent their youth in a children's home in the city, while his parents stayed behind in their remote Himalayan village. Together with his sisters, one of whom was adopted by a Dutch couple and grew up in the Netherlands, Pema goes to visit the distant village. The only way to their family's home is a 10-day trek through the mountains. After a warm reunion, tensions quickly rise: the parents expect their only son to accept his responsibility, get married and tend to their land. But Pema can't imagine life in this isolated place devoid of computers or books, and he also wants to save his sisters from a similar fate. With spectacular cinematography of the mountainous landscape as its background, The Only Son presents a sensitive generational conflict that reveals the contrasts between choosing for a primitive life in the mountains, the future that parents want for their children, and the extinction of traditions. Pema and his Westernized sisters don't want to abandon their parents, but they also look forward to their own, modern existence.

De documentaire speelt zich af aan de andere kant van de wereld maar toont een universeel verhaal - Cinemagazine

The Only Son is een prachtige documentaire over familieverhoudingen, generatieconflicten en de enorme contrasten in levensstijlen die binnen één gezin kunnen bestaan - Movie Scene


written & directed by
Simonka de Jong

Wiro Felix

sound recordist
Rik Meier

edited by
Menno Boerema

original music by
Hans Helewaut

sound mix
Nils Fauth

Awards & festivals

World première at IDFA
Amsterdam, The netherlands, 2012

official selection Hot Docs
Toronto, 2013

official selection Documentary Edge Festival
New Zeeland, 2013

Production Details

an IDtv-docs production

in co-production with
Off World
the Dutch Buddhist Broadcast company

with support from the
Dutch film Fund
The Dutch Media-fund
the Dutch coBo-Fund
Flanders Audiovisual Fund