New York Release 2006

In Honor of the Dalai Lama's Historic 2007 Visit to Toronto
The Bloor Cinema Proudly Presents the Canadian Premiers of
Thursday Nov. 1st at 9:30 PM and
Friday Nov. 2nd at 4PM

John Halpern/ Director, will conduct a Q&A following each screening

DVD's and CD are available at discount to ticket holders.

Call 917-991-9279 for further details.


: 2005     Length: 57 min.

Executive Producer:
D.B. Pictures

Writer/ Narrator:
Les Levine

Composer :
Steve Reich

Camera :
Wayne De Laroche
Liz Dory
Rahul Ranadive

Michael Dobsevage

John Halpern, U.S.

CONTACT: John Halpern

MDS Productions
41 Union Square / Suite 1326  / New York, NY  10003
Phone/Fax: 212 929 0596   Cell:  917 991-9279


Press Release



Since the beginning of the 20 th Century, Westerners have been traveling to the East in search of spiritual wisdom. By the 1950's Eastern meditation masters were coming to the West and establishing meditation centers here. This film is the story of those journeys, East and West, towards refuge.

The story of REFUGE is told by a series of first time interviews with renowned filmmakers who have made major motion pictures about Buddhism and by accomplished Tibetan masters who have established themselves here, in the West.

Martin Scorsese (KUNDUN) says:  „I'm not a Buddhist so I don't really understand, the finer tenets of Buddhism.. The one thing I aligned myself with the people and the idea of the religion, the idea of compassion and kindness and tolerance and ultimately pacifism.

REFUGE is about how Tibet has generated a spiritual rebirth in the West and about how the Tibetans who have sought REFUGE here have found their lives renewed by coming to the West.

Les Levine's narration guides us through the development of these stories, East and West. In Buddhism, "refuge" means being initiated into Buddhism. The initiate states, „From this moment forward I will seek refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.š But the word "refuge" always implies seeking a safe-haven and escaping danger. So, Westerners are seeking refuge in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists are seeking refuge in the West.

REFUGE is filled with beautiful images from Dharamsala and Bodaghaya , India, Tibet, Nepal, New York and California.

Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche says,„Tibetans are taking refuge politically, economically in the rest of the world. And some of the rest of the world, are taking refuge to this living tradition of wisdom and compassion of the Buddha."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama : „To change your tradition is very harmful sometimes.  In the field of religious faith, I feel that Westerners, who are generally Christians, Jews, and Muslims, should keep their own traditions - because it may create more confusion if they don't."

Oliver Stone : „I responded to the Buddha's story because of his intelligence. It's a beautiful story. I don't like the concept of coming down and getting nailed to a cross.  I find it very brutal. The West has had more respect for the blood myth than the East.š

Melissa Mathison Screenwriter KUNDUN: „There is a dignity in these people that we hope is contagious. They are a joyful people and there's laughing and lack of self-consciousness. Everybody's a Buddha.  Everybody has been your mother and so everybody is inter-related. They have a belief in inter-relatedness.š

Bernardo Bertolucci (LITTLE BUDDHA): „The Dalai Lama told me, "We have to be careful because sometimes finding this reincarnation is a rip-off." He said there has been a lot of speculation about tulkus (incarnate Lamas) and he warned me that not every tulku is the real thing.š

Martin Scorsese states, „I think to a certain extent Buddhism might give us an insight and a rebirth of the very essentials of what, for example, Christianity preaches.š

REFUGE takes a fresh and new look at the progress of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and it's fascination for artists, writers and filmmakers. REFUGE does not deal with the invasion of Tibet and that tragedy. To some degree, REFUGE is a success story! It shows how well the Tibetans who have come here are doing. It also shows that the West has embraced this culture whole heartedly and have helped it to establish itself here. The Tibetans who left their Shangri-la did not wither and die, their lives have been renewed by taking refuge in the West. And Westerners no longer have to travel to the East to experience the culture and wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism. Now, there are many centers and places of study all over America and Europe.

All questions about „What is contemporary Buddhism now?š are answered by Hollywood's foremost movie directors and the greatest living meditation masters who have established themselves in the West including: Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Bernardo Bertolucci,  Dzongzar Khyentse (THE CUP), screenwriter Melissa Mathison, composer Philip Glass and the 14th Dalai Lama.  Director John Halpern traveled to Dharamsala and Bodghaya, India, Tibet, Nepal, New York and California to tell this story. Artist and writer Les Levine's narration guides us through the development of these stories and the film features music by acclaimed composer Steve Reich.



Immediately following REFUGE is TALKING WITH THE DALAI LAMA, a
never-before-seen audience with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama that touches on topics we have never heard him discuss before.  The Dalai Lama responds to a variety of questions speaking directly to everyone. This is a unique opportunity to experience the Dalai Lama in a candid and private setting from his living room in Dharamsala, India.

His Holiness is a great storyteller and some of his views on religion and the West are surprising, even shocking, as example, „To change religion is very harmful sometimes...
It may create more confusion!š

Produced and Directed by John Halpern

Written and Directed by Les Levine

Running time:  27 minutes                                                                                                                                                   
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