Dalai Lama's U.S. Visits Bring 'Renaissance'

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Those planning the Tibetan spiritual leader’s visits in Florida, California and Iowa also screen the documentary ‘Dalai Lama Renaissance’ (narrated by Harrison Ford - http://www.dalailamafilm.com) to lay the spiritual groundwork for audiences’ transformation.

The Dalai Lama greets a Tibetan man during the filming of the award-winning film 'Dalai Lama Renaissance.'

The film captured the Dalai Lama’s ability to humble people in such a way that no matter who they are, their egos fly out the window.

Over the last six months, three U.S. visits by Tenzin Gyatso, the spiritual leader and 14th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, all have something in common: Their organizers have chosen to screen the award-winning documentary 'Dalai Lama Renaissance' (narrated by Harrison Ford) prior to his arrival.

Before coming to California and Florida earlier this year, organizers of the Dalai Lama’s visits researched films about the spiritual leader. They did so to find a means of telling their communities who the Dalai Lama is and why his message is relevant to their world.

They discovered 'Dalai Lama Renaissance,' a documentary film that won 12 international awards and that screened in hundreds of cinemas in the United States and around the world. When 'Dalai Lama Renaissance' screened in cinemas in Taiwan in 2009, the Chinese government took notice and aim at the film in its People's Daily newspaper. In an attempt to help prison inmates resolve inner and outer conflicts through dialog and compassion, the film's director, Khashyar Darvich, also screened and toured with the film in prisons.

“What we found was a film that was captivating,” said Maria Santamarina, Diversity Officer at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Ratón. “It gave us a personal glimpse of the Dalai Lama and his perspective on the transformation needed in the world right now.” The film screened Feb. 17 and 23, 2010, in anticipation of the Feb. 24 visit by the Dalai Lama.

Santamarina said a colleague referred her to the film, which she found online at DalaiLamaFilm.com. On the other hand, Pema Choden, president of the Tibetan Association of Southern California, first became familiar with 'Dalai Lama Renaissance' when she met the film’s producer/director Khashyar Darvich at a celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 74th birthday.

“I saw the film shortly after meeting Khashyar,” said Choden, “and I felt that it was appropriate to screen during His Holiness’ teachings in Long Beach last September. The film captured the Dalai Lama’s ability to humble people in such a way that no matter who they are, their egos fly out the window.”

Erin Wheat, Program Coordinator for Campus Activities at the University of Northern Iowa, discovered the film online while doing research. She found it in time to plan a screening prior to the Dalai Lama’s May 18, 2010, visit to Cedar Falls.

“We chose to screen 'Dalai Lama Renaissance' because of its content related to His Holiness' visit in May,” Wheat said. “With so many concerns that people have in our country and in the world – the economy, wars, natural disasters – we felt that his message of peace would set the right tone for his visit,” she said. “We also felt it would be great to have a question and answer session with the producer/director Khashyar Darvich to expand on that message and to share details of how the film was made.”

Santamarina said the Florida screening featured a Q & A with Darvich, who related not only his experiences of shooting the film in remote Dharmsala, India, and editing more than 140 hours of footage, but also told about his personal transformation that took place in the process. She said Darvich spoke of how he meditated and prayed for guidance in editing the film.

“The audience was obviously moved and soulful,” Santamarina said. “There was active participation by the audience members who were extremely engaged, curious and responsive.” Pema Choden had a similar experience with the California screening.

“The response from the audience was extremely gracious,” she said. “Many who attended were so inspired by the film that they wanted to take home a copy on DVD to see it again or to share with loved ones.”

Erin Wheat said she believes that screening 'Dalai Lama Renaissance' and engaging the community in a discussion about the film through a Q & A with Darvich will provide a needed transition for the community toward assurance that spiritual answers and self-reflection can solve many problems.

“This transition will set the stage for the Dalai Lama to present his message of peace and offer his wisdom based on more than 60 years of spiritual leadership,” she said.

Choden added that the film captures the Dalai Lama’s ability to inspire people to be the best human beings that they can be.

“The theme of the film and the teachings of the Dalai Lama are extremely relevant today because both focus on the essence of compassion and altruism,” she said. Maria Santamarina agrees.

“Screening 'Dalai Lama Renaissance' for our community provided a beautiful segue to the Dalai Lama's visit because the film deals with the transformation of 40 intellectuals who visit with him to discuss changes that need to be made in our world,” she said. “Nothing else could be more relevant and transforming today.”

'Dalai Lama Renaissance,' narrated by Harrison Ford, was produced by Khashyar Darvich and Wakan Films. To view trailers, schedule a screening or to purchase the film on DVD, visit http://www.dalailamafilm.com.

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