Vajra Sky Over Tibet

By Michael Phillips, Metromix, Nov 30, 2006

Los Angeles, USA -- Between "Zen Noir" and this awe-soaked chronicle of filmmaker John Bush's surreptitious pilgrimage to Tibet, it isn't much of a week for cinematic Buddhists.

The third in Bush's trilogy devoted to Buddhist tradition under fire, "Vajra" takes its title from a Sanskrit word meaning "thunderbolt of enlightenment." Bush narrates his film along with a pair of Tibetan exiles, the singer Dadon and Tenzin L. Choegyal, nephew of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama endorsed the final result--his letter of recommendation opens the film. But too often the film itself simply shuffles the postcards of Tibetan scenery, Buddhist rituals and the Tibetan people (many amazing faces on view, to be sure). You can't expect thunderbolts from a strictly and uncritically personal perspective such as Bush's.

But in order for audiences to better appreciate the underpinnings of Buddhism and the risks involved with modern-day practice in Tibet, the man who made "Vajra" would've needed to get his documentarian's hands a little dirty.

'Vajra Sky Over Tibet'
Running time: 1:27. Friday-Thursday at Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N . State St.; 312-846-2600. No MPAA rating (parents cautioned for thematic elements).