ISAFF Seattle 2007 Closes

After 5 days of great movies and a great effort by a lot of people, ISAFF Seattle 2007 came to a close on 7th Oct (also happened to be my birthday). Hats off to all the people who worked hard to make this possible. I got to watch a few movies and enjoyed them a lot. You can see my reviews of a few of the ealier movies here.

The last movie was “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama”… here’s what I thought about it.

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, Rick Ray (5/5)

The festival directors had definitely kept the best for the last. The show closed with this great eye-opener, and was followed by a long Q & A session with the director of the movie, Rick Ray, and a pretty interesting (and a little funny too) and passionate group of people. It was great to have the director  of the movie right there.

First, about the movie. According to Rick, the movie’s inspiration started with him being approached with a chance to get an audience with the Dalai Lama. He was offcourse delighted by that and thus started the journey. The movie explores his preparation for the meeting and spends a lot of time providing the context and history of Tibet starting from the the Dalai Lama before the current one. It was very interesting to learn about his childhood and how he was selected to be the next Dalai Lama. The real eye opener for me was the role of China in Tibet. The extent of the oppression and blatant disregard for human rights and sovereignty of Tibet was a surprise for me. I knew that Tibet has, for a very long time, been occupied by the Chinese who have caused the Dalai Lama and thousands (maybe millions) to be displaced from their homeland. I didn’t know that this goes back to the 1950s. And that over a million people have been killed during this period. Think about it, a million people killed for defending their rights to a free and respectful life in their own country.

Essentially the Dalai Lama runs a government in exile from Dharamsala, in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. So there was a lot of footage and information about the Chinese occupation of Tibet which was very informative and disconcerting. However, that is not what the movie is about. It is really an introduction to the Dalai Lama. A closeup of his, about habits, his personality and what he stands for. Let me tell you, he is a very funny guy. He is modern and in step with technology and current social norms. He is also very practical and candid. He will cut through the bullshit that is the life of most of today’s political leaders and get to the point. Rick captured this really well in this movie.

Finally the movie gets to the point where Rick meets the Dalai Lama and asks him 10 questions. There is no lightning , no divine intervention, no prophetic voice thundering down from the heavens. Just a simple monk giving practical and genuine answers to the complicated questions that are posed to him. Ironically, the movie, through its description of how great and important the Lama is, succeeded in making him more personable to me.

At one part of the movie, Rick talks about how rich “Brahmin’s” dont have smiles on their face where as poor people, where ever he encounters them, do. So those poor people they are happier. As someone else pointed out in the Q & A session, not all Brahmin’s are rich. Yes I think they have benefitted from exploitation of socially lower classes over thousands of the years but that is a separate discussion and for Rick to assert that is an over simplification. Also the movie did not at all get into the Chinese side of the story. I dont think they have much of a case here but it would have been fair to touch upon that.

Anyways, the movie was followed by a long Q & A session… there were questions about a lot of things like

“Does Dalai Lama feel any regret about involving the CIA in the struggle against the Chinese?”

 “What does the average person in China think about the occupation?”

“How does China reconcile the fact that they are a communist country and they have installed their own Panchen Lama after denying the authority of the Dalia Lama to do that?” – btw, you can read more about this here.

 And here is Dalai Lama’s website…

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