“Om mani padme hum” a mantra goes round the world. For generations the Buddhist population of Tibet has been reciting these few words, wishing for the salvation of all living beings in the universe. The documentary film, “A country sings om mani padme hum”, portrays the exceptional life of the Buddhist teacher, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Pema Samten. At the same time it tells the moving story of his homeland, the rural region of Dargye in East Tibet.
„The situation in Tibet during my childhood and in my teens was depressing and I was very unbalanced. At one point the idea crossed my mind that it would not be good to spend the rest of my life in that state.” At that time Khen Rinpoche Geshe Pema Samten was just a simple but strong-willed farmer´s boy. He turned the idea into action and set off alone on the long and often arduous journey to become a monk and later a lharampa geshe, gaining the highest academic degree possible in Tibetan monastic universities.
Khen Rinpoche has been the abbot of Dargye monastery with its three hundred monks in the Tibetan region of Kham since 1999. Since 2003 he has been living and teaching in Hamburg and Hanover (since 2006) in Germany.
The documentary film, “A country sings om mani padme hum” follows the tracks of the Tibetan master, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Pema Samten.
In the film we enter the world of monasteries, monks and nuns, and become present day witnesses of everyday life in Tibet as well as of the moving journey of Khen Rinpoche – from exile in India into the middle of far away, unknown Europe.
In July and August 2014 we were in Tibet together with Khen Rinpoche. We visited his home village in Kham and many places in which he has lived and given teachings and where he is still active today.
Pragmatic, quiet and away from large media and publicity, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Pema Samten has set up many charitable projects for the people of Dargye and those interested in Germany.
While shooting on our film trip we got to know his family, childhood friends and students. We were able to interview other Buddhist teachers and local inhabitants and ask questions about Khen Rinpoche, Buddhism and life in Tibet. We heard lots of stories and received many answers on faith, awareness, compassion and wisdom.
Day by day we got to know life there anew and learnt to love it.
We spent one day with a nomad family together with Khen Rinpoche and saw at close hand how farming communities dwell, work and live.
Religious rituals in Tibet such as prostrations, initiations, philosophical debates or mantra recitation are as varied as they are impressive.
We got to know such rituals and other customs in Dargye monastery with its three hundred monks as well as in two nunneries, where we stayed as guests. Monasteries and nunneries are an important social focus for people in the rural region of Tibet.
Again and again we were eye witnesses of many traditional festivals and dances and were able to attend a spectacular horse race.
In the health clinic we heard why they do without medical specialists in Tibet and what it means to see the human body in a holistic way.
In addition we visited a school, danced at a wedding, enjoyed the culinary delicacies of the roof of the world and much more!
Apart from these recent scenes taken in Tibet we will use some of our own archive material for the film. Since 2004 we have been taking photos and filming in the region, so one will be able to see some of the changes since then. For example these archives show some parts of Dargye monastery being rebuilt or a pilgrimage to Lhasa.
At the end of 2014 the film crew would like to go to India to document Khen Rinpoche Geshe Pema Samten´s time in exile at Sera Je monastic university, where he studied, taught and obtained his lharampa geshe degree.
At present he lives in Germany in the Tibetisches Zentrum e.V. in Hamburg and in the Tibet-Zentrum Samten Dargye Ling e.V. in Hanover, where he has been the resident teacher for many years. We will visit these places regularly to make interviews and take shots of teachings and other activities.
What is the project goal and who is the project for?
The project aims to make a documentary film of about 90 minutes. This will first be made available as a DVD to all those who have supported the project. Then the film will be distributed to Tibetan centres in Germany, shown in cinemas and other locations and presented at documentary film festivals and public TV broadcasting stations.
It is our wish that the film be made available extensively to large public audiences in Germany as well as abroad. For this reason, once the German and Tibetan versions have been made, an English version will come out.
Why would you support this project?
Each person who supports the project „A country sings om mani padme hum” and shares it with others or is involved in making it known, will actively help in preserving Tibetan Buddhist culture.
Jointly we would like to draw attention to Buddhist values, to the power of a religion and a people, to the distinctive cultural features of a land that has not been recognized, and especially to the path of peaceful co-existence!
With this film we and our supporters would like to assist in the upkeep of the monasteries, the training of monks and nuns, the development of schools and higher education as well as medical care. Last but not least we would like the cultural exchange between Tibet and Germany to flourish. We joyfully look forward to all kinds of support and promotion!
Thank you or thug dsche tsche – as the Tibetans say!
How will we use the money if the project is successfully funded?
The largest part of the production costs of the documentary film “A country sings om mani padme hum” (total about 95 000 Euro) is being financed by ourselves. For the professional and especially speedy work of postproduction, however, the film crew needs support.
The whole team consists of trained people who are professionals in their own fields. They have renounced a regular salary to make this film possible.
However, since making a 90-minute documentary film requires a lot of resources and is very costly, some basic funding must be secured for the further production of the film. This will ensure that the project can be finalized in the near future. With the help of our Crowd we would like to cover some of the costs of editing, post production, translating, music, sound, studio costs and the provision for crowd-funding and thanks/acknowledgements.
All members of the film team have financed their shooting trips to Tibet themselves (from 2004 onwards and in July/August 2014) as well as all the shots in Germany, past and present. They have not been paid any salary at all.
For the planned short trip to India with a small two-man team (about 5-7 days in the autumn or winter of 2014) support is needed for the travel costs. Our main protagonist Khen Rinpoche Geshe Pema Samten spent a large part of his life in exile in India, studying in the Tibetan monastery, Sera Je. This was an important part of his life and sometimes rather difficult. We want to visit this monastery and interview his former teacher and student friends.
In case more money comes in than the minimum sum, or if money is left over, it will go directly to the Tashi Dargye charitable organization: http://tashi-dargye.de/.
This supports many different projects in the Dargye region, helps with the rebuilding of monasteries, schools and the health clinic and organizes sponsorships for monks and nuns.
Who are the people behind the project?
André Konarske: camera
Pia Busse: text and content
Christoph Hallmann: post production
Tom Bredthauer: sound and music
Chongalhamo: Translation directly from Tibetan to German
Geshe Palden Öser and Getsülma Losang Chökyi: translation and transcription
Martin Heckmann: German and English speaker
Contact for questions on Buddhism: Tibet-Zentrum Samten Dargye Ling e.V. Hannover, Odeonstraße 2, 30159 Hannover, phone: 0049(0)511-5690030, e-mail: [email protected]