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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Dalai Lama film in Maine

September 15, 2007

On an East Coast tour, the filmmaker will show his movie and discuss it with the audience next week.

WATERVILLE — Rick Ray says spending time with the Dalai Lama, the world's best-known Buddhist leader, is more likely to produce a feeling of warmth than lead to a spiritual awakening.

"He's a practical man, and he often says if you came here today expecting a miracle, you won't find it," Ray said.

A writer, director and producer, Ray interviewed the 14th Dalai Lama and made a film about his life as well as about Ray's own experiences in India.

Ray, 47, brings that film, "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama," to Waterville on Tuesday for two showings at Railroad Square Cinema. He will introduce it and answer questions afterward.

"There haven't been that many films done that combine a biography with an adventure story with the philosophy of the Dalai Lama," said Ray, of Santa Barbara, Calif. "I'm just really excited about coming up to see Maine and meeting the audience. I love putting film out in front of a live audience."

Ray's film uses historical footage of the Dalai Lama's younger years, the Chinese takeover of Tibet and his exile to India, as well as modern clips of his travels around the world and shots from Ray's trip to India and visit with the Dalai Lama.

"I think when you're in a room with him, in his presence -- the word is 'presence' -- there is a gentle but strong awareness that he puts out," Ray said. "He's 100 percent with you when you interview him. He is not aloof at all. He's engaged, laughing, thinking, and he's really with you, and that's the primary feeling I got."

The film shows the Dalai Lama in his monastery in Dharamsala, India, where he reads lots of books and is fascinated by all things mechanical, such as watches -- he likes to take them apart and put them back together, Ray said. Ray characterizes the Dalai Lama as one who prefers to fly coach as opposed to first-class, dislikes festivals and ceremony, likes to giggle and can be mischievous.

A producer of mostly travel documentary films, Ray got the interview with the Dalai Lama in a roundabout way. He had been hired by an American company working with Air India to do a film about the wonders of India. The company had a modest budget, however, so officials told Ray he would be guaranteed an interview with the Dalai Lama if he agreed to do it.

Ray agreed, but found out later that an interview never had been scheduled, he said. So he e-mailed the Dalai Lama and got a response from one of his representatives saying that His Holiness would meet with Ray in three months, and he would be allowed 45 minutes and only 10 questions.

Ray said he had been told the Dalai Lama does not suffer fools and if he felt the interview was not worthy, he would end it anytime; but Ray spent an hour with the spiritual leader, who practices and encourages nonviolence.

In the film, the Dalai Lama says violence against China -- which took over his homeland of Tibet, killed Tibetans and destroyed monasteries -- is wrong; that using a gun is a short-term solution to problems. He instead espouses peaceful engagement.

Ray's film tells the story of how the Dalai Lama was chosen as a child and trained to become the spiritual leader. It also explains how this Dalai Lama chose a Panchen Lama to help identify the next Dalai Lama and that, after the Dalai Lama made that announcement, the Panchen Lama and his family were kidnapped by the Chinese and their whereabouts are unknown.

Speaking by cell phone from Philadelphia, where he was promoting his film this week, Ray said many people are not aware of the kidnapping, including some people who are Dalai Lama enthusiasts and have seen his film.

"I've tried very hard to really emphasize that point," he said.

Ray is on a three-week tour of the East Coast, promoting his film, which opened in Manhattan last week. He completed the film last year.

He said he does not know whether the Dalai Lama has seen it, but his representatives have.

"I know his office has seen it and his secretary has seen it, and they have been recommending it as a good introductory film about his life and his experiences," Ray said.

Born into a film family in Los Angeles, Ray later moved to the central coast of California, graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in film and then went to Hollywood to "get recognized," he said.

"I learned that I really didn't fit in with the whole Hollywood caste system. It just didn't suit me. It was not my cup of tea," he said.

He worked as a chauffeur for actor Jack Palance.

Palance urged Ray to travel the world. Ray got an around-the- world ticket for $1,200, picked up his camera and backpack and did just that, he said. He has been traveling and making films ever since.

He also teaches at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, where, he says, he tells his students, "You can make a difference, You can get your message heard in brand new ways."

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