This Martin Scorsese film drama detailing the Dalai Lama's life story was in development for seven years, with the Dalai Lama having input into the 14 screenplay drafts by Melissa Mathison (The Black Stallion, E.T.). With four actors portraying the Dalai Lama at different ages, Scorsese's chronicle begins in 1933 with the death of the 13th Dalai Lama. Born in a remote area, the new Dalai Lama (seen at ages two and five in early sequences) is observed by monks who determine that he is the 14th reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion. In 1944 the Dalai Lama uses newsreels and Western magazines to study WWII events, and as the war ends, he is forced to deal with Chinese Communist aggression. Protests from the Dalai Lama in 1949 are ignored as Mao (Robert Lin) maintains a military stranglehold on Tibet, eventually forcing the Dalai Lama to flee to Dharmsala, India. With a $28 million budget, Scorsese re-created Tibet's tragedy by filming in south-central Morocco with a cast of nonprofessional Tibetan actors. Second unit work took place at locations in Idaho and British Columbia. Avant-garde composer Philip Glass contributed a score with hypnotic, ritualistic overtones.
by Bhob Stewart synopsis