Dalai Lama Renaissance



Munich Filmfest

MUNICH -- Khashyar Darvich's "Dalai Lama Renaissance" is less a documentary than an 80-minute paean to the Dalai Lama. It almost certainly will be seen by admirers of his holiness but will never do anything more than preach to the converted.

At film's end, a participant in the conference called by the Dalai Lama says that an astrologer friend of his made a prediction about the powwow: None of the world's problems would be solved, the 40 "top minds" invited to his holiness' residence in Dharmsala, India, would spend five days arguing, then the Dalai Lama would lecture them and set everyone straight.

That astrologer should have been invited to the conference instead of the physicists, biologists, magazine publishers, business consultants and comparative religion professors who came, because he was absolutely right. It's kind of sweet to see this hand-picked lot of 1960s college campus throwbacks with salt-and-pepper hair being so earnest about what they are sure is going to be a conference to change the world.

To Darvich's credit, the film does reveal the human dynamics of how an academic pecking order is established, as the scholars break into discussion groups and the facilitators try to keep things moving on schedule. The interaction of academic and organizational egos, not to mention the comic pliability of the word "compassion" throughout, keeps "Renaissance" at least mildly entertaining. And, of course, listening to what the Dalai Lama has to say is always a pleasure even for the most cynical atheist.

Nothing profound or even interesting in terms of solving world problems come out of the discussions, despite repeated lectures by his holiness. The much-publicized narration by Harrison Ford is limited to a few sentences that would hardly add up to five minutes if strung together. Perhaps most importantly, the film gives no hint that the conference took place in September 1999. So what we are watching is, to say the least, old news.

Wakan Films
Screenwriter-director-editor: Khashyar Darvich
Producers: Khashyar Darvich, David Mueller
Directors of photography: Bashir Kevin Cates, Khashyar Darvich, Scott Ewers, Frank Green, David Mueller, Elisabeth M. Spencer, Steve Wilson
Music: Roop Verma, Tashi Dhondup Sharzur, Henry Reid, Michel Tyabji
Narrator: Harrison Ford
Running time -- 80 minutes
No MPAA rating