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I know nothing of the Dalai Lama. I did find out, however, that he’s an incredible person, to say the least. And yet, after a screening of 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, I was left wondering how someone could make a boring documentary about such a fascinating human being. Does it take effort to do so? A lack of talent? Not at all. Just something as simple as a lack of focus.

When the Dalai Lama speaks in the movie, everyone in the audience has a revelation, or some form of one. His Holiness puts complicated issues into such simple terms and talks in such a casual tone, yet he never sounds condescending, as he is very common sense- and reason-based and down-to-earth. He’s quite modest for being one of the most respected people on the planet. However, the title is misleading: we do not get ninety-or-so minutes of candid interview footage with His Holiness. Instead, the movie should have been titled, “What is a Dalai Lama?” as Rick Ray, the film’s director, spends a good portion of the movie looking at past Dalai Lamas and the tradition behind the position.

Ray began making the film when a video production company paid him to make a travel video. And that’s exactly what the movie feels like: there are multiple barrages of shots that Ray expects us to be fascinated by for their postcard-worthiness alone. The story feels like it’s longer than a mere hour-and-a-half, and it’s hard to sit through. The saving grace is footage of His Holiness answering Ray’s (sometimes) difficult questions. We feel like we don’t really get a sense of who His Holiness is. Sometimes, the movie feels like a Margaret Mead film in its distance from its subject.

I really wanted to like this movie. Honest. And any movie that introduces the Dalai Lama to a wider audience has a genuine, noble motive at heart. However, the movie feels amateurish in its production, and it’s hard to take it seriously, even though it hits on some serious subjects like freeing Tibet and the violent history that His Holiness has experienced with China.

I can’t say, though, that I would tell somebody to go see this movie, because during the great majority of the running time, I was wishing I was watching the Dalai Lama speak so I wouldn’t have to see all the re-enactment footage and pretty pictures of landscapes. 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama has its moments, including the inspiring story of a Tibetan monk who was so filled with anger that he almost left the monastery in order to kill before His Holiness comforted him with a peaceful hug.

But I feel those moments combined, which comprise about twenty minutes of the movie, don’t equal the sum of the film’s parts.


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