June 10, 2010
It's not everyday that you get to see the Dalai Lama brush his teeth. I don't know what I expected—maybe a beautifully ornamented golden toothbrush—but as it turns out, his toothbrush looked a lot like my own.
Such are the moments captured in Sunrise/Sunset, a documentary film directed by Vitali Manski. Several years ago the filmmaker and his crew were allowed to follow and film H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama for 24 hours—through press conferences, private audiences with Tibetan refugees, meditation, and even his morning fitness routine. But though there is certainly something captivating about watching the Dalai Lama doing morning exercises on a treadmill, the most powerful moments in the film are the candid interviews, which—characteristic of the Dalai Lama—are both jovial and serious. In a brief interview on the monastery balcony, the Dalai Lama explains the relativity of moments before good humoredly laughing at the overwhelmed film crew. As the movie enters dusk the filmmakers have a chance to sit down for an extended and personal talk with the Dalai Lama during which they discuss the disparity between the rich and the poor, the role of the individual in religion, and the essence of the universe.
Though the private moments of hygiene and exercise do nothing to remove him from the proverbial pedestal, they do offer rare glimpses of normalcy. His Holiness said it best himself:
Sometimes people call me a Living Buddha or a God King, but I always say, this is nonsense. I am a simple Buddhist monk. Through this film you will realize I am a normal human being, nothing special. Just a normal Buddhist monk.
Check out the film trailer for Sunrise/Sunset: