DC Premiere of An Uncommon King

In truth the seeds for An Uncommon King began in the mind of the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche as he stood in the

AnUncommonKingsmallermountains of Tibet watching the destruction of his country. Before his harrowing escape, he told his brother Damchö Rinpoche that he wanted to start a family lineage. Trungpa Rinpoche told him that he felt it was the best way to preserve the teachings. Tibet was crumbling and the most precious thing, the thing at the very root of Tibet’s entire culture, is the Buddhist teachings. Even though Trungpa Rinpoche was still a monk – and a very high lama at that, he was intent on having a child to pass the teachings onto. I was really surprised by how much clarity the Sakyong’s father had about that. His whole life was dedicated to protecting, transplanting and then propagating those teachings. That is the mission the Sakyong inherited and is continuing.

James Hoagland has been documenting programs and events in the Shambhala community for many, many years. When the Sakyong became Sakyong in 1995 James began to intensively chronicle his life. He traveled with him to many places to shoot video. He had a lot of video footage and needed help to craft it all into a story. I already had a keen interest in the unfolding story of Shambhala and had produced a video on the Sakyong empowerment. James came to me with the idea to make this documentary. The majority of the footage was there, but “the story” had yet to emerge. Once I came on board we began doing interviews with the Sakyong and continued to travel a bit more with him. He was very supportive & generous with his time. He trusted us with telling this story. His wife, the Sakyong Wangmo was incredibly gracious as well. Over all it took 17 years to make and was shot in 12 countries. Plus we had access to many hours of terrific archival material going back to the 1970’s.

There was a lot of auspicious coincidence connected to the filming. James and Ethan Neville went with the Sakyong on his two trips to Tibet. They captured some of the most remarkable footage. Because they were with the Sakyong they had intimate access to everything. And as it turns out, they captured a time in Eastern Tibet just before the high-speed train to Lhasa was open and the roads connecting the area to the city of Jyekundo were still dirt. This was a last glimpse of an era when horses were still quite important and material goods were not easily available. This footage is remarkable and naturally very cinematic.

But it’s not all about Tibet. All our footage looks great and since we filmed in 12 countries – there is quite a rich pallet! We captured some amazing moments including early meetings with His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, spending time with the Sakyong at home in Halifax, on the road across North America and on retreat in India. We even have footage of the first time the Sakyong laid eyes on the future Sakyong Wangmo!

Since the early 1970’s many talented people have photographed and recorded audio and video of events in Shambhala. This means we have a remarkable treasure trove of material that will benefit many now and in the future.

We “re-discovered” some wonderful jewels in the Shambhala Archives, like the audio recordings of the Sawang empowerment. That’s when the Sakyong was 15 and became the “Sawang” and was formally recognized as Trungpa Rinpoche’s Shambhala successor. The audio added a very personal note to a very formal event. I can’t wait for the public to see it.

An Uncommon King is a biography of a man very much entering his prime. I am confident there will be other chapters of his life to tell down the road. But this biography is about the establishment of the lineage of Sakyongs. Where Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche comes from and what his life purpose is. It’s a father – son story, it’s a story about wisdom passing from East to West. And above all it’s a story about basic goodness. It’s a living story that is unfolding all the time.

Both James and I are delighted that An Uncommon King will be at BuddhaFest in the Washington DC area on Sunday, June 23 at 1:15 pm. If you’re reading this and are in the area, please order tickets and come! I’ll be there for questions and answers after.

Please enjoy the film! Both James and I hope you have many good discussions and that in some small way, this film expands your experience and trust of goodness in the world.

- Johanna J. Lunn, Director/Producer