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Refuge & Talking with the Dalai Lama (Unrated)

Release Date: May 12th, 2006 (Quad Cinemas) by MDS Productions.
Directed by John Halpern.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about modern Buddhism in the Western part of the world.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: It’s interesting to notice how Buddhism has spread from East to West and shown in films such as The Cup and Kundun. The interviews with Oliver Stone, Philip Glass, Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorcese and other celebrities help to reflect how Buddhism has spread. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama discusses how important and powerful Buddhism is as a form of meditation. If you’re already familiar with Buddhism, Refuge doesn’t say anything new or surprising about Buddhism nor does it give a strong enough reason as to what in particular makes it so essential and popular. It would have been more interesting to include interviews with common Americans to see how they view Buddhism rather than just ask the celebrities. At a running time of 57 minutes, Refuge doesn’t feel as long as the supplemental 23-minute documentary, Talking with the Dalai Lama which feels just as dull as its title sounds.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: After the Buddhist meditation process, one feels more connected to the world rather than being self-oriented. The Dalai Lama admits that, for some people, it takes a while to be affected by Buddhism—not just spending a weekend in a Buddhist refuge. According to statistics, does Buddhism solve people’s problems in the long run? For that matter, why not just go see a shrink instead? Ultimately, both Refuge and Talking with the Dalai Lama prove that Buddhism has spread to West, but fail to answer the most basic over-arching question: So what?

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Nothing new, provocative or enlightening.


IN A NUTSHELL: Mildly engaging, but not insightful or analytical enough.


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