It's difficult to describe the experience of watching Dawn Gifford Engle's The Dalai Lama - Scientist, the latest film in the Nobel Legacy Film Series that shines out, quite easily, as the best film yet in the series.
I have heard The Dalai Lama speak in person. I have read The Dalai Lama's books and writings. I have watched countless films and videos and documentaries about The Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama - Scientist is, quite simply, both transcendent and immersive. It's an intellectually satisfying documentary yet once that brings to the forefront a presence of The Dalai Lama seldom, if ever, captured on the big screen before.
While I have long admired The Dalai Lama and immersed myself in his teachings, perhaps never before this film have I felt truly connected emotionally to one of the great spiritual leaders of our time. Thanks to Engle's work here, the connection feels complete and inspired and immersive and true.
The Dalai Lama - Scientist is a 94-minute feature doc that had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival Production Bridge. Like other films on the Nobel Legacy Film Series, The Dalai Lama - Scientist explores the world of a Nobel Peace Prize winner and does so in a way that is simply extraordinary.
Truthfully. Seriously. I have tears in my eyes even as I write this review.
It was 85 years ago that a little boy was born in a remote corner of Tibet. One day, he was discovered to be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and, before long, was taken away to the city of Lhasa to become equipped to be the political and religious leader of the vast kingdom of Tibet. Self-described as a "lazy student," he would hold within himself a secret - a secret of his deep interest in and gift for science and technology.
The Dalai Lama - Scientist captures this side of The Dalai Lama, often utilizing rare and never before seen footage to capture The Dalai Lama largely unseen by the world yet a side of The Dalai Lama that has long woven into the fabric of his spiritual teachings the intelligence, wisdom, and teachings of a variety of scientific fields. Somehow, amidst it all, Engle also manages to humanize The Dalai Lama in a way I've never witnessed on the big screen - a spiritual teacher with a yearning for knowledge and a willingness to be both student and teacher and strangely and wondrously curious.
It's beautiful to behold.
The Dalai Lama - Scientist is filled with facts my non-analytical mind can't begin to understand, yet somehow the Dalai Lama makes them understandable and endearing and filled with love and, oh my word, even surprisingly funny.
Who knew The Dalai Lama could be so funny?
The Dalai Lama - Scientist is a revelation. More than any other film in the Nobel Legacy Film Series before it, The Dalai Lama - Scientist deepens one's understanding of its subject matter and truly, truly celebrates it in ways that feel honest, enlightening, and educational. The film shines a light on The Dalai Lama but, perhaps even more impressively, immerses all of us in that light as we find ourselves active participants within this world where spirituality and science meet and embrace peacefully. With warm, pristine lensing by Elizabeth Holloway, Franz Reichle, and Dave Wruck, The Dalai Lama - Scientist brings us alongside The Dalai Lama and the scientists who share the screen from beginning to end. Aaron Lininger's animation is simply exceptional, adding richness and depth and humanity to the stories that unfold and bringing in a stroke of innocence and wonder that works perfectly within the film's tapestry. Laurel Harris's understated, humane narration adds yet another foundation of authenticity and transparency to the film.
There isn't a gimmick to be found in The Dalai Lama - Scientist. It is both a richly human documentary and a serious, well informed documentary worthy of being part of the Nobel Legacy Film Series put forth by the acclaimed PeaceJam Foundation. Entertaining and enriching, The Dalai Lama - Scientist is an absolute must-see for anyone who considers themselves a follower of Buddhist teachings, The Dalai Lama, a devotee of peace, or simply a possessor of a curious heart and mind.
While I have appreciated every film in the Nobel Legacy Film Series, there is no other word to describe The Dalai Lama - Scientist other than love. I truly loved every minute of it.
For more information on The Dalai Lama - Scientist, visit the film's official website linked to in the credits and watch for it as PeaceJam aims for wider distribution opportunities with this title. You surely won't want to miss it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic