What would the Dalai Lama do? When it comes to the environment, he would advocate for population control. With regard to China's occupation of Tibet, he would seek out the path of nonviolence through patience and compassion. As for America's overcrowded prisons, the Dalai Lama would encourage self-discipline among Americans, who he says should curb their greed to decrease suffering and increase spiritual—as opposed to economic—growth.
These answers aren't the suppositions of zealous Buddhists; rather, they are the answers given by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to questions posed by filmmaker Rick Ray. Granted one hour, Ray visited the Dalai Lama at his monastery in Dharamsala, India, to ask the political and spiritual leader 10 questions.
The resulting film, aptly named 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, combines an extraordinarily candid interview with pieces of Ray's own story, a short history of Chinese occupation in Tibet and a dim view of what the future may have in store for Tibet, its people and its beloved leader.
A solid Tibetan history lesson throughout the film's first half lays a necessary foundation for the actual interview in the film's latter half. For viewers expecting an hour of face time with His Holiness, the preceding setup may be a bit wearisome as anticipation builds. However, it's worth the wait.
The interview shows a rarely seen side of the leader, with him in his own living space rather than speaking to a large audience in a foreign country. And before Ray introduces the audience to His Holiness, he depicts the man who calls himself only a simple Buddhist monk. Ray walks the streets of Dharamsala, filming the Dalai Lama's simple monastery from the outside, and inside, Ray shows His Holiness eating breakfast and reading with his feet propped up on a wall. Ray divulges personal details, like the fact that His Holiness listens to BBC radio, reads about quantum physics, believes sentient beings exist on other planets and is prone to choose the side of science when it conflicts with faith.
Both Ray and the Dalai Lama appear on camera during the actual interview, and careful editing keeps the question and answer session from being too tedious. Pertinent footage, commentary from Ray and even clips from an interview with the Dalai Lama's personal secretary interwoven throughout the interview provide not only background to the conversation, but also a measure of depth that the weight of the exchange warrants.
As for Ray, who must compose questions that reflect the intelligence, spirituality and political savoir-faire of his subject, he asks serious, in-depth questions relevant to issues in a global community. How do cultures preserve traditions while simultaneously modernizing? At what point should a policy of nonviolence be discarded for self-defense? And can Buddhism help bring peace to the Middle East?
His Holiness answers each question with equal patience and thought, and some of his responses are slightly unexpected.
Meet filmmaker Rick Ray after a sneak preview Thur., Oct. 11, $10, Flicks. Screenings at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 13, 5 p.m. Tashi Dondup hosts a post-film Q&A.