Harrison Ford may do for the Dalai Lama what Morgan Freeman did for penguins — at least that’s what the people who made The Dalai Lama Renaissance hope.
Ford narrated the docu, which chronicles a meeting the Dalai Lama held at the end of 1999 with philosophers and thinkers to “solve the world’s problems.” You know, kids’ stuff.
Khashyar Darvich, producer-director of Dalai Lama Renaissance, told FBLA that Ford topped the director’s list of dream narrators because “he is a grounded person who is liked by a wide variety of audiences, and who has a solid voice for narration.”
So far, the film has wound its way through the festival circuit, and Darvich is hoping for wider distribution later this year. In the meantime, he answered some of our questions about his film and His Holiness.
1. How long did it take to complete this film?
The event was filmed at the end of 1999, just before the New Millennium. I feel that all films (especially documentaries) have their own innate timing and process. I had to first take care of my other producing responsibilities for about a year, and then I came back to Dalai Lama Renaissance.
The reasons that the film took a few years to complete were:
1) I felt that we had captured a very special moment and time, and so I gave up all my offers of other films to devote myself to this film. I did not accept any other film offers and work, and decided to give myself completely to this film, which meant to watch and log all 140 hours of footage myself, pay for the post-production of the film myself, and patiently hold test screenings and bring in the right people (who had a genuine feeling for the project).
I gave this film the care and attention that it needed, and the film moved forward in a way that was natural and right for the film.
We decided to focus on the timelessness of the story, and about the human journey and struggle and transformation of the characters in the film, as well as the timeless wisdom of the Dalai Lama.
The timing of the film worked perfectly, because if we had asked Harrison Ford 6 months earlier or later to narrate the film, he would not have been available.
I think that everything, especially a documentary film, has its own
timing. Most of the documentaries that receive nominations for Academy Awards take a few years to make.
2. What message are you hoping to make with this film?
The Dalai Lama says many inspiring and deeply impactful things in the
film. My intention was not to present a specific message, rather to impact audiences in the most powerful and positive way possible.
My intention for making the film was to present a powerful story, and
intimate experience with the Dalai Lama, that would touch and inspire
people. From our four sold-out screenings at the Montreal World Film
Festival, to the three sold-out screenings at FilmFest Munich, and sold-out screenings at the Telluride MountainFilm Festival, audiences after the screenings have come up to me expressing that they have been deeply impacted and inspired. This is the greatest satisfaction for me as a filmmaker.
Audiences and Entertainment Industry people are telling me that they have seen many films on the Dalai Lama, and this is the most intimate
experience of him on film that they have seen.
One of the main messages expressed in the story and characters of the film is that the most effective way to create positive change in the world is to first transform and change ourselves and look at our own issues, and then this in itself will change those around us- — our families, our towns, and even farther outwards.
Many people want to change the world without also changing themselves and resolving the issues and conflicts that they have themselves and in their families. The Dalai Lama (and the film) is very very much about personal responsibility.
3. How were the meeting’s participants chosen?
You can find a full list of who is included in the film (and also attended the meeting) here.
In fact, people who are included in our film are also featured in the
films “The Secret” and “What the Bleep Do We Know,” as well as went on to have successful careers as authors, radio hosts, etc.
They were chosen mainly by a close friend of the Dalai Lama (Brother Wayne Teasdale), a Western monk who himself is an author and is included in the film.
4. How did Harrison Ford become involved in the project?
We made a short list of who we thought would be the best narrator for the film, and Harrison Ford was on the top of the list. We called his office, explained the project to his office, and he had the press kit in his hands a few days later when he was flying from Los Angeles.
He liked the project, and eight weeks later Harrison and we were in a
recording studio recording the narration.
I thought was a great choice because he is a grounded person who is liked by a wide variety of audiences, and who has a solid voice for narration.
This is an example of how the timing of this film was perfect, because if we would have asked him six months earlier to do the narration, he would not have been available, and if we would have asked him six months later, he would also not have been available.
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