10 Questions for the Dalai Lama


The 11th question would be: Does a TV-grade travelogue followed by a halfway-decent Q&A warrant a theatrical release? Let’s go for 12: Will the location of Tibet, the history of Chinese takeover, or the fact that the Dalai Lama uses e-mail enlighten anyone older than a grade-schooler? Dorky, fanny-pack- wearing world traveler Rick Ray wrote, directed, shot, narrates, and appears far too often in this earnest, artless documentary, filmed during his three- month stay in Dharmasala, India. Ray was granted a 45-minute sit-down with His Holiness, though it takes almost that long before we’re privy to his first question. For filler, the film bounces between stagey moments—like Ray discussing his yak-butter breakfasts— and stock footage to provide oversimplified background on one Tenzin Gyatso, whom Ray hails as a “rock star for peace.” (Does that make Richard Gere a groupie?) It’s a slog, and the ever-present droning of Tibetan horns only underscores the tedium. The Dalai Lama himself looks a bit bored when he finally makes his real-time entrance, as Ray prefaces questions with needless references to his past exploits and films. Thankfully even Ray’s eye-rollers (Why do poor people look happier?) elicit thoughtful, compelling answers from the Yoda-voiced spiritual leader.