This fascinating documentary is both the portrait of an unusual father/son relationship and the exploration of a remarkable spiritual journey. The father is a Buddhist master or Rinpoche who relocated from Tibet to Italy in 1958 where he attempts to re-establish the exiled Dzogchen Buddhist community. His wife Rosa is Italian and they live with their son and daughter in Naples. The father receives a message that his son Yeshi is the reincarnation of his uncle, a Buddhist master who died in Tibet. As a teenager, Yeshi has no interest in this concept and resents the fact that his father has more time for travel and his students than for him. “Everybody knows about me and nobody knows me at all.” As the years pass we watch Yeshi grow into a young man with a family of his own, a career at IBM and little interest in Buddhism.
Meanwhile, the Dzogchen community is expanding and after his father is taken seriously ill Yeshi begins to utilize his business experience to help the organization on a part-time basis. When he realizes that his job is taking over his life he turns to meditation to relieve the stress. Eventually he quits the job and accepts his father as his teacher and in time also accepts his reincarnation.
Wonderful images of water and swimming open the movie and reoccur as a reflection of the Buddhist teaching that Samsara – life, suffering, re-birth - is like the ocean and that to be free one must learn to swim through life without attachment or emotion.
The director Jennifer Fox has edited twenty years of footage to create this remarkable documentary. She could not have known how it would turn out when she began filming but she must be very happy with the final outcome. One bit of genius is the use of the jaunty song Via Con Me by Paulo Conte. It is a familiar feel-good piece of music that adds an upbeat note to the film and underscores the ever- present Buddhist sense of humor. When I found an English translation of the song’s lyrics I understood even further it’s brilliant relevance to the movie:
“Away, away, get away with me
Nothing more binds you to these places…”
Or as the Buddha said:
“I give you the teaching and the path. The realization is up to you.”