Can you think of an instance when the Buddha’s fundamental teachings formed the framework for a commercial film, right down to the title? That time has come, with The Fourth Noble Truth premiering today (trailer above).
The Fourth Noble Truth was written and directed by Gary T. McDonald, inspired by his years sitting with the All One Dharma meditation group in Santa Monica, CA, which describes itself as “draw[ing] upon the wisdom and experience of the group as well as a variety of Buddhist teachers ranging from Thich Nhat Hanh to Jack Kornfield to Shinzin Young.” When members of All One Dharma read early drafts of the screenplay, McDonald says, “they leaned in, [and] contributed their talents and resources every step of the way.”
The result is a very Buddhist love story. A-list Hollywood actor Aaron (Harry Hamlin) receives an unusual sentence for a road rage conviction: learn to meditate with lovely (of course) instructor Rachel (Kristin Kerr). He pours on his habitual, manipulative charm. She tries to keep him on a path to transcend desire, yet struggles with her own conflicted feelings. This path to the cessation of desire-caused suffering is the Buddha’s Fourth Noble Truth, and the film unfolds in eight chapters, each thematically reflecting one of the eightfold elements of that path. Will Aaron break his narcissistic patterns? Will Rachel find her way to a healthy way to love?
“As a writer/director,” said McDonald, “you don’t often get a chance to work on a film that’s meant from the get-go to ‘change the world.’ There are a lot of unhappy people out there and I think this film points them in the right direction to overcome that unhappiness. If it succeeds, we will have made a difference.”