Trailer: New documentary celebrates “The American Rimpoche”; June premieres in NY, DC

Gelek Rimpoche as a child in Tibet (photo taken by his father), and as an adult in Michigan.

Gelek Rimpoche as a child in Tibet (photo taken by his father), and as an adult in Michigan.

When a reincarnate lama in Lhasa, Tibet, begins collecting Life magazines in 1946 at age seven and talking so much about America that his monastic companions nickname him “the American Rimpoche,” it’s hard to avoid using words like “destiny” when, by the 1980’s, he had shed his monastic robes, put on a suit, and established himself as a Buddhist teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Such is the life arc of Gelek Rimpoche, founder of the Jewel Heart organization of Tibetan Buddhist centers, and the subject of a new documentary film to premiere this summer, The American Rimpoche (see the trailer after the jump).

Over the past quarter century, Gelek Rimpoche has attracted some of the creative and intellectual luminaries in Western Buddhist circles, and two have directly collaborated to create The American Rimpoche: filmmaker Nikki Appino, who directed, and composer Philip Glass, who scored the film, both consider themselves students. As did Allen Ginsberg, who’s discussed as part of what Glass terms “the Easternization of American youth” in the 60’s and 70’s. As do Professors Robert Thurman and Donald Lopez, whose narration helps the viewer navigate the film’s more esoteric Buddhist elements.

New Yorkers will have a first look at The American Rimpoche on June 7 at the Rubin Museum. Gelek Rimpoche, Nikki Appino, and Philip Glass will all be on hand to discuss the film. Gelek Rimpoche and Appino will continue with the film down to BuddhaFest in Washington, DC, where it will screen on June 21. More screenings are planned in America and Europe in the fall of this year. Here is the trailer:

To learn more about The American Rimpoche visit the film’s website here.

Special thanks to Mary Paige Snell, whose interview with Nikki Appino and Philip Glass provided some of the material for this post.


  1. says

    Thanks for the interesting trailer, I just recently heard about Gelek Rimpoche so it is really great to get to more facts about his interesting life.