Mickey Lemle made his first documentary about the Dalai Lama in 1991. Entitled COMPASSION IN EXILE, it recounted his discovery as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, his training since childhood to be the spiritual leader of Tibet, and the consequences for him and his country of the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and his Holiness’ subsequent escape to India. In THE LAST DALAI LAMA?, Lemle briefly recounts that history in order to give his audience context. The bulk of the film though, follows His Holiness on his mission to spread compassion throughout the world, and his continuing struggle with the Chinese occupation. The title refers to His Holiness’ attempt to thwart the intention of the Chinese government to appoint the 15th Dalai Lama on the death of the current one. He’s already said that he will not reincarnate in China, putting both that government and his followers on notice that any candidate found there will not be legitimate.
It makes Lemle’s film more than a documentary. It is part of His Holiness’ spiritual last will and testament.
When I spoke with Lemle on June 6, 2017, though, we started with what I thought was one of the documentary’s most enlightening moments. Halfway through, after listening to His Holiness’ message of compassion, and see the effect it has had on people from many walks of life, we are presented with George W. Bush. Those watching with a less than positive opinion of the 43rd President are brought up short, caught between their opinion, and the Dalai Lama’s teachings.
We went on to talk about the implications of His Holiness being honored publicly by both parties in Congress; what has resonated with Lemle about His Holiness over the years; His Holiness’ vibrant sense of humor; blending spirituality and neuroscience; and the pitfalls of attachment.
We finished up with the one thing that the Dalai Lama admits that so many leaders, secular and spiritual, won’t; the hows and whys of both Philip Glass’ participation and his evolution as a composer with the help of synchronicity; the protestors in Tibet who give their lives to draw attention to the plight of their people; and finding the truth in illusions via cinema. My very last question is what I ask everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting His Holiness. What’s it like to look into his eyes.