It’s been a full decade since filming, yet viewers are still eager to see Dalai Lama Renaissance. The documentary has drawn in audiences around the world with the unique story of a perfect situation—40 of America’s brightest thinkers and innovators meeting with the Dalai Lama to solve the world’s biggest problems—gone wrong.
As narrator Harrison Ford’s fatherly voice boomed through Center of the Heart at the two-part doc’s screenings last weekend, the audience cheered, jeered, and laughed so much it seemed we were really there. Director-producer Khashyar Darvich was there as well, for a Q&A session afterward, having arrived in Santa Barbara just a few hours earlier.
By the way, the 40-person group of “renaissance” thinkers, which called itself the “Synthesis Group,” included three Santa Barbarans.
What could possibly go wrong at such a well-intentioned event? Egos. Huge egos. Self-centricity so irritating and persistent it makes you want to punch the projector. And, of course, serious self-transformation at the end when several of the a-holes realize the incredible strength and positivity of the Dalai Lama.
Although Dalai Lama Renaissance wasn’t released commercially in the U.S., it’s been shown all over the world since it was filmed in 2000. (Intimate Dialogues is Part I of the documentary. Part II, Intimate Dialogues, features recorded conversations with the Dalai Lama.) Darvich talked about how it is just now being released in theaters in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is about to go on Spanish national television, and has already seen theatrical release in Italy, Taiwan, and Holland. He said he’d even heard that it was snuck into Hong Kong from Japan, and from there into China.
“If you want to upload the Chinese version of the film and send it to servers in China, please, be my guest!” the filmmaker joked, noting that it was movies like this that could help show the Chinese people that the Dalai Lama was not, in fact, the devilish, malicious character the Chinese government had made him out to be. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee his native Tibet in 1959 due to Tibet’s conflict with the Chinese government; he resides in Dharamsala, India. “Most of all, it’s about conflict resolution,” Darvich said of the film. “Going from ego-centeredness to open-heartedness.”
Darvich still has high hopes for his movie after years of touring and more than 200 screenings: His hope is that the Dalai Lama’s faith and optimism will cross the borders of race, socioeconomics, and religion. He’s shown it at several federal prisons, and said he was so touched by the remorse and resolve in some of the prisoners—”especially the prisoners who had some kind of spiritual practice, like yoga or meditation”—that he’s currently working on a new project filming their reactions to Dalai Lama Renaissance.
He added, “It’s also screening in another kind of prison—the corporate boardroom.”