Who is the 14th Dalai Lama? Spiritual leader of all Tibetans? International statesman who speaks out against political oppressors? Fund-raiser for the refugee Tibetan communities in northern India and elsewhere? Guru to the stars? All these facets of his personality and more are touched on in this slickly produced hour-long 1993 documentary by Mickey Lemle. Interviews with the jovial lama himself (aka Tenzin Gyatso) and with his relatives and associates–intercut with rarely seen historic footage–present a partial picture of the man, though more as hagiography than biography. Most fascinating is the account of the selection process that brought the former peasant boy to the center of power. Interesting, too, are the assorted Buddhist rituals that perpetuate belief in altruism and reincarnation. The film comes down hard–and rightly so–on the communist regime, intent on eradicating religion and nationalism in Tibet by violent means. But Lemle, obviously in awe of his subject, doesn’t probe any deeper–say, by questioning the continued relevance of a centuries-old theocracy that kept most Tibetans illiterate and the country backward, or contemplating the possibility that the Dalai Lama may be enjoying just a few too many of the perks of celebrity. The softly incantatory score is by Philip Glass, one of the lama’s prominent Western supporters. Someone from Chicago’s Tibetan Resettlement Project will be on hand to answer questions after the screening. Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Wednesday, May 25, 7:30, 384-5533.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Clive Arrowsmith.