Synopsis

To the Western imagination, Tibet evokes the exotic, the spiritual, and, since its invasion by China, the political; a fabled land, sheltered from modernity and threatened by extinction. Americans are enchanted with Tibet and its particular form of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has achieved rock-star status and many American seekers have turned to him for answers to today’s pressing conflicts and concerns.

Gelek Rimpoche was born in this legendary Shangri-la. Part of the aristocracy, he trained as a traditional monk but was forced to flee in 1959. He has lived an extraordinary life spanning continents, customs, and cultures. No longer in monks’ robes, now a citizen of the United States, Gelek Rimpoche finds himself in the suburbs of Michigan with a devout international following and a new title: American Rimpoche.


Filmmakers

Nikki Appino is an award-winning media and theater artist. As a director, writer, and producer, Appino has taken on subjects ranging from religion and sports to American history and pop culture. She has received numerous awards including an NEA directing fellowship. Appino began her training as a writer and director at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Experimental Theater Program. She moved to Seattle, where she began her career at such west coast venues as The Empty Space, Portland Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Rep, New City Theatre, and the Northwest New Works Festival. In 1991, Appino was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts directing fellowship. She returned to Seattle in 1992 and founded the company House of Dames to develop and produce original theater works. She wrote and directed the play Subrosa with Kristen Newbom, and adapted and directed Dark Night of Souls and her own original work, Lazarus. In 1995, Nikki produced her first two films, the short works Threshold and Thibadeaux Sally, which played to festival audiences in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City. From 1998 to 2004, House of Dames produced one original work each year, among them Invisible Ink, Before the Comet Comes, and the acclaimed Djinn, described as having "a power far beyond words" by American Theater Magazine. In 2000, House of Dames took over a decommissioned naval base and built a roller derby track from the ground up for Rain City Rollers, a musical set in the 1930s and based on the myth of Orpheus. Performed on roller skates, this highly acclaimed extravaganza had an extended run and played to sold-out crowds. In 2003, acclaimed composer and singer-songwriter Robin Holcomb selected Appino to direct O, Say a Sunset, a multimedia stage show based on the life and letters of environmentalist Rachel Carson. The show traveled to five major US cities. In 2003, Appino returned New York City and began working as a freelance producer and production manager for major media outlets on projects ranging from educational CD-ROMs to weekly television series. She has most recently worked with Triple Threat Television as a supervising producer on dLifeTV for LifeMed Media and CNBC and, working under the noted executive producer Thom Beers, co-produced Dead Tenants for Discovery/TLC. In addition to her commercial work, Nikki independently produced and directed White Tara, a one-hour film piece documenting a lecture by a Tibetan Buddhist lama, Gelek Rimpoche. Under the Appino Productions banner, Nikki is currently producing two documentaries — American Rimpoche: A Tibetan Lama in the Twenty-first Century, about the coming of Tibetan Buddhism to the West, and A Girl’s Gotta Ride, which follows the lives of women rodeo.
Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times. The operas – “Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha,” “Akhnaten,” and “The Voyage,” among many others – play throughout the world’s leading houses, and rarely to an empty seat. Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning motion pictures such as “The Hours” and Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun,” while “Koyaanisqatsi,” his initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, may be the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since “Fantasia.” His associations, personal and professional, with leading rock, pop and world music artists date back to the 1960s, including the beginning of his collaborative relationship with artist Robert Wilson. Indeed, Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music -- simultaneously. He was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland , Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer. The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” There has been nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 30 years, Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; nine symphonies; two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
Rod Bachar has worked on dozens of documentaries, reality shows, sport shows, commercials, webisodes, and live performances for clients ranging from HBO to National Geographic, from PBS to MTV. As a Director of Photography and a Still Photographer Rod exhibits both exceptional camera techniques and innate storytelling instincts. 

Rod’s passion for films as well as still images led him to pursue dual major degree in Film & Video Production and Still Photography while going through undergraduate studies in New York City. He graduated in 1999 and has continued working in both mediums ever since. 

Rod’s greatest strength derives from his versatility. He is equally capable when shooting handheld verite style, directing multi-camera shoots, and when lighting a set. As a still photographer Rod’s insatiable curiosity and sense of adventure has led him to shoot in four different continents on a variety of formats. The result is a portfolio as diverse as he is.