A truly international project, Vara was filmed in Sri Lanka featuring a mostly Indian cast, including rising Bollywood star Shahana Goswami as Lila, the film’s central character. Vara brought together an impressive array of filmmakers from around the world, including award-winning American cinematographer Bradford Young, renowned Hong Kong-based film editor William Chang, and London-based composer Nitin Sawhney.
Rinpoche is very focused on engaging with young Buddhists, guiding the next generation of Buddhist practitioners by relating to them in a uniquely informal manner. Five volunteers on Vara were second-generation students of Rinpoche’s, and a number of them were offered to Rinpoche as “free labor” .
“My father is very vocal about the fact that he’s offered me and my brother to Rinpoche,” jokes Chime Dorjee, a Bhutanese-Londoner who is spending her gap year working for Rinpoche before taking a job at a law firm. Actually, she was given a choice in the matter and leapt at the opportunity to work for him.
“I feel really lucky. My mom said it’s because of my merit that I get to work here, and I actually feel the same way,” says Joie Chen, who is working as a production assistant and shooting behind-the-scenes footage about the making of the film. She trains her lens on Ed Lin, who was offered by his mother as a camera intern, and asks, “How does it feel to be a donation?”
“I’m happy to be here, and I’ve learned a lot,” says Lin. “But I’m not sure if I’m a good donation.”
“I think he’s a great donation,” counters Joie. “He’s like one of those donations that seems like a gag gift but turns out to be so useful even though it still makes you laugh.”