UPDATE: The Tribeca Film Festival is offering free online screenings of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s new film, Vara: A Blessing, as one of four features selected for a web-based audience competition. From Monday night at 8:45pm EDT to Wednesday at 3pm, the first 1500 people to log on can watch the entire film (U.S. residents only), with a chance halfway through to give it a one- to five-star vote. Visit TFF’s competition page here, set up a simple online account (click the eye symbol at the upper right), and you’ll be eligible to view Vara and vote. Our original post about Vara, from last week, follows here now.
It’s no simple matter juggling life as an internationally in-demand Buddhist teacher, while also satisfying the schedules for directing and promoting a major film. “I’m so bad at managing time,” Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche told the Wall Street Journal‘s David Walter, lamenting that he missed the world premiere last October of his latest project, Vara: A Blessing, to give teachings beyond the reach of cell phones, high in the Himalayas.
But Khyentse Rinpoche does intend to be in New York for Vara‘s North American premiere next week at the Tribeca Film Festival. In an interview published today, he described to Walter how filming Vara, a love story based around Indian classical dance, presented a new set of challenges, such as working with professional actors for the first time (for his two previous films, The Cup and Travellers and Magicians, he used local people in his native Bhutan) and the daunting intricacy of choreographing and shooting Bollywood-style dance numbers.
He also copped to why, as a Buddhist teacher, he also makes films:
“My only interest in making films exists — and I don’t know how long this is going to last — to make a film of the life of Buddha. To do that, you need experience. And I haven’t properly gone to a good filmmaking school. So I might make one or two more films before punching myself into the big projects, like Buddha.”
And when pressed by Walter as to whether film was “a good thing or a spiritual distraction,” Khyentse Rinpoche responded:
“Film is a medium. The Internet, Facebook, WeChat — all of those are mediums. As long as you have the right attitude, the right motivation, those things don’t necessarily have to be an obstacle. So-called traditional spiritual techniques, spiritual rituals — many times they can get in your way. They’re much more dangerous, in a way. They can look very spiritual, very ancient, very wholesome, but can make you puritanical, righteous, more judgmental. And that’s not necessarily good.”
Read the full interview to learn Khyentse Rinpoche’s view on whether rock music and ethics conflict, what his next project will be about, why he feels watching a film like Natural Born Killers can be spiritually beneficial, and more.
Vara: A Blessing will screen all next week at the Tribeca Film Festival, starting Monday the 21st. Visit here for schedule details.
While in New York, Khyentse Rinpoche will give a public talk this Friday, April 18, entitled “It Depends.” The talk will be streamed live here starting at 7pm EST.
For more from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, check out these three teachings from the pages of Shambhala Sun: