DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
PRODUCERS: Barbara De Fina for Cappa/DeFina Productions
SCREENPLAY: Melissa Mathison
CAST: all non-Westerners
"Kundun", which means the presence of a great spiritual master, was initiated by Melissa Mathison about six years ago. She brought the idea to the Dalai Lama and it was agreed that she would write the story of His Holiness and bring it to film. With the first draft, she flew to Dharamsala to read and discuss the script. Mathison said, "His Holiness was a real collaborator with accuracy, detail, personalities, characters, and emotion. I used his phrases also for dialogue." Every draft was shown to the Dalai Lama. In 1993 she sent the screenplay to Martin Scorsese. He was attracted to the story for its portrayal of non-violence.
"Kundun" is a story of unbending will and profound religious commitment set against a spectacular physical backdrop and compelling world politics. The film chronicles the young life of the Dalai Lama and his extraordinary circumstances; He was chosen as the reincarnation of a Buddhist deity and educated in the great historical religious teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. There are four Tibetans who play the part of the Dalai Lama at various stages of his life; all actors in the film are non-Westerners.
Scorsese had originally planned to shoot in India, in Dharamsala and in Ladakh, with the Himalayas as backdrop; yet the Indians delayed permission to the point at which Morocco, in particular Ouarzazate, was chosen for the filming location. Ouarzazate has been the location of many films such as "Laurence of Arabia"; the landscape is open and dramatic, perfect to render the extreme wonder of the Tibetan high plateaus which are said to be the 'roof of the world'.
An auspicious sign greeted the film-makers on their last day on the set, out in the gateway to the Sahara, it snowed roughly three inches - this against big palm trees - to softly blanket the scene and start the journey to bring this tremendous story to the public.
In October of last year Chinese authorities warned Walt Disney executives that the studio's role in a feature film about the life of the Dalai Lama would force China to reconsider Disney's extensive plans for investment in China's entertainment market. "We are resolutely opposed to the making of this movie," said Kong Min, an official at the Film Bureau of the Ministry of Radio Film and Television. "It is intended to glorify the Dalai Lama, so it is an interference in China's internal affairs."
Disney officials said they would follow through with their plans to release the film in the United States despite such warnings, and they did. China's concern is understandable since the story of Tibet does not reflect well on China and it creates even more public interest in the Dalai Lama, who is arguably the most powerful man in the world in terms of moral authority.
"Kundun" is a Christmas 1997 release. See a preview here
Walt Disney Co./Touchstone Pictures is the intellectual property holder of the movie "Kundun" and holds copyright over the movie, character and storyline. ON... makes no claim to the rights of any of these items and has no intention to infringe on the rights of Walt Disney Co./Touchstone Pictures