Kundun


2h 8m 1997

Brief Synopsis

Story about his Holiness Tenzingyatso, the 14th Dalai Lamai of Tibet who was forced into exile in 1959, nine years after China's invasion of Tibet....

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG-13
Genre
Drama
Biography
Religion
Release Date
1997
Distribution Company
Walt Disney Studios Distribution
Location
British Columbia, Canada; Ouarzazate, Morocco; Idaho, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m

Synopsis

Story about his Holiness Tenzingyatso, the 14th Dalai Lamai of Tibet who was forced into exile in 1959, nine years after China's invasion of Tibet.

Crew

Ahmed Abounouom

Extras Agent/Coordinator

Karim Abouobayd

Location Manager

Rob Ackerman

Props

Renato Agostini

Special Effects

Nancy Allen

Music

Elio Altamura

Props

Cecilia Alvarenga

Production Coordinator

Romano Amidei

Set Costumer

Veronica Arroyo

Music

Edelweiss Azzuro

Tailor

Giampaolo Bagala

Grip

Alice Baker

Assistant Set Decorator

Craig Barron

Visual Effects Supervisor

Tony Basile

Production Supervisor

James Bekiaris

Gaffer

Bernard Bellew

Assistant Director

Nick Bernini

Art Department

Brian Bishop

Other

Douglas Bishop

Other

Hans Bjerno

Camera Operator

Milena Bono Parodi

Other

Christine Wardrobe Booth

Other

David Boulton

Adr

Mario Bramucci

Electrician

Patrick Bramucci

Electrician

Ansell Bray

Visual Effects

Scott Brock

Assistant Editor

Jeffrey Burks

Visual Effects Supervisor

Norman Burns

Assistant Director

Peter Caldwell

Other

Douglas J Campbell

Effects Assistant

Fausto Cancellieri

Grip

Steve Carmona

Assistant Camera Operator

Giorgio Catalano

Accountant

Peter Cavaciuti

Steadicam Operator

Franco Ceraolo

Art Director

Kam Chan

Foley Editor

Ben Cheah

Foley

Jaouad Cherkaoui

Location Manager

Paul Coburn

Other

Vito Colazzo

Location Manager

Marko Costanzo

Foley Artist

Conor Coughlan

Special Effects

Jay Cox

Color Timer

Massimo Cristofanelli

Special Effects

Martin Czembor

Music

Nezha Dakil

Set Costumer

Steve Danton

Unit Production Manager

Barbara De Fina

Producer

James Ellis Deakins

Script Supervisor

Roger Deakins

Dp/Cinematographer

Roger Deakins

Director Of Photography

Doug Delaney

Camera

Maria Deleo

Location Assistant

Elisabetta Deleonardis

Hair Stylist

Krystyna Demkowicz

Visual Effects

Brahim Derhem

Location Manager

Matthew Desorgher

Boom Operator

Massimiliano Dessena

Grip

Lhundup Dorjee

Casting Associate

Rob Dressel

3-D Animator

Rick Dunn

Visual Effects

Syd Dutton

Visual Effects Supervisor

Christopher Evans

Visual Effects

Sergio Faina

Grip

Stefano Falivene

Assistant

Laura Fattori

Executive Producer

Randi Feinberg

Production Coordinator

Dante Ferretti

Costume Designer

Dante Ferretti

Production Designer

Carla Ferroni

Other

Chris Fielder

Assistant Editor

Tom Fleischman

Rerecording

Guendaline Fletcher

Other

Thomas Foligno

Assistant Editor

Walter Foster

Wrangler

Michael Fowlie

Property Master

Dawn Freer

Script Supervisor

Michael Frick

Rotoscope Animator

Mike Friedman

Other

Antonio Gabrielli

Location Manager

Giovanni Galasso

Electrician

Eugene Gearty

Digital Effects Supervisor

Giovanni Gianese

Art Department

Mirella Ginnoto

Hair Stylist

Philip Glass

Music

Giorgio Gregorini

Hair Stylist

Jonathan Gunning

Other

Tony Halawa

Visual Effects

Bruce Hamme

Dolly Grip

Kevin Hannigan

Special Effects

Andy Harris

Assistant Camera Operator

Scott Harris

Associate Producer

Scott Harris

Assistant Director

Vivian Hasbrouck

Casting Associate

Ryoji Hata

Assistant Engineer

Ahmed Hatimi

Assistant Director

Claas Henke

Visual Effects

Dennis Hoffman

Visual Effects

Dean Hood

Accountant

Jason Kao Hwang

Music

Enrico Iacoponi

Makeup Artist

Dream Quest Images

Visual Effects

Michael Kearns

Special Effects

Jim Keller

Music Producer

Frank Kern

Foley Editor

Dhondup Namgyal Khorko

Music

Jan Kiesser

Dp/Cinematographer

Jan Kiesser

Director Of Photography

Jennifer Kimi

3-D Artist

Paul Kineke

Props

Mike King

Helicopter Pilot

Ramona Kirschenman

Music

Jeremy Knaster

Electrician

Leslie Kobyluck

Production Coordinator

Keiko Kubota

Visual Effects

James Kwei

Associate Editor

Jerzy Lamirowsky

Animal Wrangler

Giuseppe Larocca

Other

Terry Laudermilch

Other

Debora Li Lavois

Apprentice

Brian Leach

Visual Effects

Robert Legato

Visual Effects Supervisor

Alison Levy

Assistant

Ellen Lewis

Casting

Lobsang Lhalungpa

Technical Advisor

Skip Lievsay

Digital Effects Supervisor

Adam Lipsius

Adr

Marissa Littlefield

Adr Editor

Lauren Ann Littleton

Effects Coordinator

Yan Liu

Theme Lyrics

Francesca Lo Schiavo

Set Decorator

Rick Lopez

Rerecording

Byron Lovelace

Props

Roberto Magagnini

Props

Giampaolo Majorana

Grip

Elsa Malandra

Tailor

Marco Maldonado

Assistant Camera Operator

Roberto Malerba

Unit Production Manager

Joe Mandia

Rotoscope Animator

Alan Manger

Boom Operator

Alberto Mangiante

Assistant Director

Phil Marco

Director Of Photography

Phil Marco

Dp/Cinematographer

Francesco Marras

Location Manager

Frank Masi

Production Assistant

Melissa Mathison

Screenplay

Melissa Mathison

Coproducer

Martin Matzinger

Effects Coordinator

Gary Mcilraith

Props

Kelvin Mcilwain

Matte Painter

Tommaso Mele

Key Grip

Karin Mercurio

Accountant

Todd Milner

Assistant Editor

Tim Monich

Dialogue Coach

Bill Moore

Best Boy

William Moore

Best Boy

Robin Mounsey

Other

Craig Mullins

Visual Effects

Kurt Munkacsi

Music Producer

John Murrah

Technical Supervisor

Howie Muzika

Rotoscope Animator

Erik Nash

Director Of Photography

Erik Nash

Dp/Cinematographer

Riccardo Neri

Location Manager

Tony Noel

Visual Effects

Billy O'leary

Gaffer

David Orr

Color Timer

Barbara Pastrovich

Assistant Director

Felipe Perez

Production Assistant

Suzana Peric

Music Editor

Philip C Pfeiffer

Director Of Photography

Philip C Pfeiffer

Dp/Cinematographer

Phil Phillips Marco

Executive Producer

Jacki Phipps

Assistant Director

Bruce Pross

Foley

Joel Proust

Animal Wrangler

Massimo Razzi

Art Director

Nicholas Renbeck

Dialogue Editor

Orlando Reyes

Production Assistant

Amanda Riesman

Music

Michael Riesman

Music Conductor

Brian Ringseis

Editorial Assistant

Ulysses Rivers

Assistant

Marina Roberti

Set Costumer

Roosevelt Roberts

Key Grip

Bona Nasalli Rocca

Wardrobe Supervisor

Edward Rodriguez

Assistant Camera Operator

Stephen Rogers

Sound

Ken Rogerson

Editor

Fred Rosenberg

Dialogue Editor

Maria Salvatori

Tailor

Salvatore Salzano

Tailor

Massimo Sambuco

Electrician

Menouer Samiri

Production Manager

Allesandra Sampaolo

Makeup Artist

Lobsang Samten

Technical Advisor

Gerald Schade

Production Assistant

Thelma Schoonmaker

Editor

Simona Scianni Manico

Other

Film Details

MPAA Rating
PG-13
Genre
Drama
Biography
Religion
Release Date
1997
Distribution Company
Walt Disney Studios Distribution
Location
British Columbia, Canada; Ouarzazate, Morocco; Idaho, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m

Award Nominations

Set Decoration

1997

Best Cinematography

1997

Best Costume Design

1997

Best Score (Dramatic Picture)

1997

Articles

Kundun


The thirteenth Dalai Lama passed away in 1933. In 1935, the Regent of Tibet had a vision to guide the search for the next incarnation of the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1937, that incarnation was found in the person of a two-year-old child, Tenzin Gyatso.

Kundun (1997) is a portrait of the early life of the boy recognized as the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, from his discovery at the age of two by a Lama in the guise of a servant, through the invasion of Tibet by Communist China in 1950, to his flight to India and exile from his homeland in 1959 at the age of 24. The title of the film, which comes from the honorific title of the Dalai Lama, means The Presence, as in the presence of the Buddha.

Melissa Mathison, screenwriter of The Black Stallion (1979) and E.T. (1982), met with the Dalai Lama in the 1990s to ask if she could write a film of his life. He gave her his blessing and his time, sitting for interviews that became the basis of her script. (The writing credit reads: "Screenplay by Melissa Mathison, Based on the life story of his holiness, the Dalai Lama"). As she explains it, he put his trust in her to guide his story to the big screen. You could say that the producers did as well when they took her suggestion to send the script to Martin Scorsese.

The director best known for such classics of urban alienation and violent lives as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and The Departed (2006), is not the first artist one would think of to bring the story of Tibet's fourteenth Dalai Lama to the screen. But there is another side to the one-time Catholic altar boy who once considered entering the priesthood, a side seen in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), easily the most controversial portrait of the life of Christ and one of the few religious films to really grapple with the meaning of faith in spiritual terms.

"Compassion and love are the only way to go," says Scorsese in the documentary In Search of Kundun with Martin Scorsese. "The other way is violence.'' Kundun is surely the most gentle and meditative of Scorsese's films, a placid biography with the scope of an epic, the quality of a storybook, and the dramatic stakes of a tragedy. Scorsese observes the odyssey through the eyes of the boy treated almost like a king when he's taken from his rural family home to be raised and taught by Buddhist monks to take his place as the spiritual leader of Tibet. Those early scenes recall The Last Emperor (1987), and not just for its visual splendor and rich color, painted in austere images of glowing golden yellows and deep reds. It's a portrait of a child learning the scope of his power while his elders try to instill in him modesty and reflection.

Scorsese never shows violent conflict except through the newsreels, as if it all comes from another world, but he shows us that the Dalia Lama knows well the danger that faces him and his followers from Chairman Mao and Communist China. In one dream, blood pours into a fish pond, in another the bodies of hundreds of monks lay slaughtered at his feet, the camera pulling back to reveal untold numbers that will surely die in any armed confrontation. The unmistakable cyclical compositions of Philip Glass' score (which at times brings to mind the memorable music he wrote for Koyaanisqatsi, 1982) results in a chant-like backdrop to the drama and to the introspective direction. Glass's use of throat singers also adds a strange and beautiful human quality to the rumbling bass.

The largely Tibetan cast is made up entirely of non-professional actors, and Kundun's family members are portrayed by actual relatives of the Dalai Lama. Scorsese had planned to shoot in Tibet, but the permits did not come through in time so he took his crew and cast to Morocco, where he had previously shot The Last Temptation of Christ. In some cases, he shot on the very same locations and resorted to matte paintings of the Himalayas to evoke the mountain terrain of Tibet. If you look closely at the faces of the Communist Chinese soldiers in the invasion of Lhasa, you can see Indian and Tibetan faces, which Scorsese "cheated" by obscuring with dust and scarves and goggles.

Kundun is neither an introduction to the tenets of Buddhism nor a political rallying cry to free Tibet, though both echo through the background of the film. It's the story of the boy becoming both a spiritual leader and a modern man: a reformer within his own country and monastery, a simple man and sensitive young leader who observes the outside world through newsreels and movies (not to mention a fine telescope), and who perhaps would rather simply repair clocks and tinker with mechanical things than shoulder the responsibilities that will face him when he ascends to the throne. The teachings and philosophy are largely left to aphorisms and simple lessons, but the film has an awe of Buddhist ceremony and Tibetan culture, and a visual beauty and cinematic serenity in tune with the teachings of non-violence and Buddhist thought. There's an almost hypnotic balance of impressionist moments from his human life and formal, almost ritualistic scenes of his duty-bound responsibilities. Scorsese is too respectful to discover the human frailties and weaknesses of his hero, but his reverence is felt in every ritual and lesson.

Kundun was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins (who won the National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle awards for his work) and Best Original Score for Philip Glass.

Producers: Barbara De Fina and Melissa Mathison
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Melissa Mathison
Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo (set decoration)
Music: Philip Glass
Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
Cast: Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong (Dalai Lama as adult), Tencho Gyalpo (Mother), Tenzin Topjar (Lobsang 5-10), Tsewang Migyur Khangsar (Father), Tenzin Lodoe (Takster).
C-134m. Letterboxed.

by Sean Axmaker
Kundun

Kundun

The thirteenth Dalai Lama passed away in 1933. In 1935, the Regent of Tibet had a vision to guide the search for the next incarnation of the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1937, that incarnation was found in the person of a two-year-old child, Tenzin Gyatso. Kundun (1997) is a portrait of the early life of the boy recognized as the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, from his discovery at the age of two by a Lama in the guise of a servant, through the invasion of Tibet by Communist China in 1950, to his flight to India and exile from his homeland in 1959 at the age of 24. The title of the film, which comes from the honorific title of the Dalai Lama, means The Presence, as in the presence of the Buddha. Melissa Mathison, screenwriter of The Black Stallion (1979) and E.T. (1982), met with the Dalai Lama in the 1990s to ask if she could write a film of his life. He gave her his blessing and his time, sitting for interviews that became the basis of her script. (The writing credit reads: "Screenplay by Melissa Mathison, Based on the life story of his holiness, the Dalai Lama"). As she explains it, he put his trust in her to guide his story to the big screen. You could say that the producers did as well when they took her suggestion to send the script to Martin Scorsese. The director best known for such classics of urban alienation and violent lives as Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and The Departed (2006), is not the first artist one would think of to bring the story of Tibet's fourteenth Dalai Lama to the screen. But there is another side to the one-time Catholic altar boy who once considered entering the priesthood, a side seen in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), easily the most controversial portrait of the life of Christ and one of the few religious films to really grapple with the meaning of faith in spiritual terms. "Compassion and love are the only way to go," says Scorsese in the documentary In Search of Kundun with Martin Scorsese. "The other way is violence.'' Kundun is surely the most gentle and meditative of Scorsese's films, a placid biography with the scope of an epic, the quality of a storybook, and the dramatic stakes of a tragedy. Scorsese observes the odyssey through the eyes of the boy treated almost like a king when he's taken from his rural family home to be raised and taught by Buddhist monks to take his place as the spiritual leader of Tibet. Those early scenes recall The Last Emperor (1987), and not just for its visual splendor and rich color, painted in austere images of glowing golden yellows and deep reds. It's a portrait of a child learning the scope of his power while his elders try to instill in him modesty and reflection. Scorsese never shows violent conflict except through the newsreels, as if it all comes from another world, but he shows us that the Dalia Lama knows well the danger that faces him and his followers from Chairman Mao and Communist China. In one dream, blood pours into a fish pond, in another the bodies of hundreds of monks lay slaughtered at his feet, the camera pulling back to reveal untold numbers that will surely die in any armed confrontation. The unmistakable cyclical compositions of Philip Glass' score (which at times brings to mind the memorable music he wrote for Koyaanisqatsi, 1982) results in a chant-like backdrop to the drama and to the introspective direction. Glass's use of throat singers also adds a strange and beautiful human quality to the rumbling bass. The largely Tibetan cast is made up entirely of non-professional actors, and Kundun's family members are portrayed by actual relatives of the Dalai Lama. Scorsese had planned to shoot in Tibet, but the permits did not come through in time so he took his crew and cast to Morocco, where he had previously shot The Last Temptation of Christ. In some cases, he shot on the very same locations and resorted to matte paintings of the Himalayas to evoke the mountain terrain of Tibet. If you look closely at the faces of the Communist Chinese soldiers in the invasion of Lhasa, you can see Indian and Tibetan faces, which Scorsese "cheated" by obscuring with dust and scarves and goggles. Kundun is neither an introduction to the tenets of Buddhism nor a political rallying cry to free Tibet, though both echo through the background of the film. It's the story of the boy becoming both a spiritual leader and a modern man: a reformer within his own country and monastery, a simple man and sensitive young leader who observes the outside world through newsreels and movies (not to mention a fine telescope), and who perhaps would rather simply repair clocks and tinker with mechanical things than shoulder the responsibilities that will face him when he ascends to the throne. The teachings and philosophy are largely left to aphorisms and simple lessons, but the film has an awe of Buddhist ceremony and Tibetan culture, and a visual beauty and cinematic serenity in tune with the teachings of non-violence and Buddhist thought. There's an almost hypnotic balance of impressionist moments from his human life and formal, almost ritualistic scenes of his duty-bound responsibilities. Scorsese is too respectful to discover the human frailties and weaknesses of his hero, but his reverence is felt in every ritual and lesson. Kundun was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins (who won the National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle awards for his work) and Best Original Score for Philip Glass. Producers: Barbara De Fina and Melissa Mathison Director: Martin Scorsese Screenplay: Melissa Mathison Cinematography: Roger Deakins Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo (set decoration) Music: Philip Glass Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker Cast: Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong (Dalai Lama as adult), Tencho Gyalpo (Mother), Tenzin Topjar (Lobsang 5-10), Tsewang Migyur Khangsar (Father), Tenzin Lodoe (Takster). C-134m. Letterboxed. by Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Roger Deakins was nominated in the feature film category for the 1997 Outstanding Achievement Awards sponsored by the American Society of Cinematographers.

Winner of the 1997 award for Best Cinematography from the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Winner of the 1997 award for Best Cinematography from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Winner of the 1997 award for Best Original Score from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Released in United States February 1998

Released in United States on Video August 18, 1998

Released in United States Winter December 25, 1997

Wide Release in United States January 16, 1998

Shown at Olso Film Days in Olso, Norway February 6-12, 1998.

Before landing at Disney, the project was acquired by Warner Brothers after a brief period in turnaround from Universal.

Began shooting August 26, 1996.

Completed shooting December 20, 1996.

Actor Tsewang Jigme Tsarong is the real-life father of the film's star Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is acknowledged for his cooperation and contribution by the producer of the film.

Tencho Gyalpo is the real-life granddaughter of the Dalai's Lama's mother, the role she plays in the film.

The term "kundun" means "precious one."

Wide Release in United States January 16, 1998

Released in United States February 1998 (Shown at Olso Film Days in Olso, Norway February 6-12, 1998.)

Released in United States on Video August 18, 1998

Released in United States Winter December 25, 1997