HOUSTON, Texas – When documentary film Producer-Director Khashyar Darvich was invited to screen his award-winning film about the Dalai Lama, ‘Dalai Lama Renaissance’ (narrated by Harrison Ford – www.DalaiLamaFilm.com), for inmates in maximum security prisons near Houston, Texas, he immediately said ‘yes.’
He offered to purchase his own an airline ticket, attend the screenings, and then speak with the inmates afterwards.
“I had never been to a prison before,” said Director Darvich. “But, I had a deep feeling that the experience would be meaningful and powerful, for the inmates, but also for me.”
“When I sense that my heart responds to something, and I feel warmth in my chest, then I take this as a clear sign that it is the right thing for me to pursue that course of action. The fundamental intention of making this film was to impact and transform audiences in a positive way,” Darvich says, “and I thought of no better place to screen ‘Dalai Lama Renaissance’ than a prison.”
Half of the inmates who attended the screenings in the two Texas prisons, were convicted of murder, some of them for double murder. There were some in the audience who were convicted of fraud.
However, Darvich was very surprised at how insightful and intelligent the inmates comments were about the film, and how the inmates applied the themes and insights in the film to themselves in a very personal and direct way.
“One of the main themes of the film,” says Darvich, “is resolving both inner and outer conflicts, and understanding that the best way to resolve conflicts in the world and in your community is to first resolve issues within yourself. I was very surprised at how the inmates understood this right away, and applied the message of the film immediately and effortlessly to themselves.”
One of the inmates in the Stiles maximum security prison in Texas, was emotional and expressed, as he pointed his fingers to his chest, that the issue of Tibet and China mentioned in the film and the realization that we all have our own “Inner Tibets,” really impacted him.
“One of the realizations that was crystal clear to me while I was at the prisons,” Darvich says, “was that some of the inmates would never be able to get out, and were to spend every day of their lives in prison. For most people, this would be a depressing and unfathomable thought. Before I visited the prisons, just imagining the thought of being incarcerated created fear and panic within me.”
Many of the inmates who attended the screenings have life sentences, and had a lot of time to think and reflect.
And yet, Darvich says, a person who is not physically in prison, can appear to have all of the freedom in the world, and yet be imprisoned by their thoughts, habits and the jail that they create within their own mind.
“Inmates who lose their freedom through their mistakes and actions,” Darvich says, “can choose to see their time in prison as an opportunity, and a place for spiritual learning and person growth.”
Darvich was speaking with the person who invited him to screen the film in the prisons, Terry Conrad, the Director of ‘Project Clear Light’ (www.projectclearlight.org), about how the life of an inmate is somewhat like a monk who lives in a monastery.
Except in the case of inmates, their world is often surrounded by violence, which is an added incentive to work on finding inner peace.
After the screenings and Q&A sessions, Darvich said that many of the inmates mentioned that they do not experience many positive life-affirming experiences in prison, and they felt inspired and impacted by the screening, and listening to the Dalai Lama’s words about compassion and personal responsibility.
“But,” Darvich says, “it felt good to my heart and one of the most meaningful things I have done with the film to show inmates that someone cares and wants to show compassion…”
Darvich says that he would like to screen the film in other prisons, and have further open dialogues with inmates.
Khashyar Darvich is the Producer-Director of both the ‘Dalai Lama Renaissance’ documentary film (narrated by Harrison Ford), as well as the newly released ‘Dalai Lama Renaissance Vol. 2: A Revolution of Ideas,’ both of which are available on DVD here: www.DalaiLamaFilm.com
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