by Joel Crisp
My name is Joel Crisp and I’m a videographer in San Diego, California. I started feeling the tug to make a documentary about Mandarava around 2005. She is an important but lesser-known figure in Tibetan Buddhism. Meditations based on her have contributed to the health and longevity of my beloved teacher Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, and for this I’m grateful.
Slowly, with the help of my endlessly patient wife Mary Elisa Tuton, I started to piece together an expedition to India and Nepal where the events of Mandarava’s life took place.
In 2010 we packed our gear, and accompanied by our friend Lacey Segal, set off to shoot at Tso Pema lake in Himachal Pradesh in northern India, and Maratika, Nepal, 125 km south of Mt. Everest.
At one point a small plane dropped us off on a hilltop in remote Nepal. Our guide had not shown up and we watched the plane fly away, wondering what we were going to do. We hiked in the dark and rain for 8 hours until we arrived at the monastery in Maratika. We were shaken. While we adjusted our eyes to the naked light bulb, a mama dog forced her way into the room and had her puppies at our feet right then and there. Mary had a twisted ankle, Lacey had a migraine, and my legs were gone, but we settled down to nice hospitality. Ramen noodles have never, ever tasted so good! The next morning was gorgeous and bizarrely we weren’t even sore. We filmed for a glorious month that I will never forget.
Since then I’ve been writing and recording the soundtrack, editing the footage, and searching for an illustrator to portray these events from 1200 years ago. I’ve tried every way I know how to not ask anyone for money. I’ve tried to pay for it myself out of what I earn shooting weddings, but more often than not my saint of a wife has borne the burden of expenses. As generous as she’s been, I broke the bank, and we can’t cover the costs of a professional illustrator.
Paola Minelli has done many official pieces of Mandarava art for the Dzogchen Community of which I’ve been a part for 25 years. Having visited Tso Pema, India and Maratika, Nepal herself she is the ideal artist for this project. We’re so happy she has allowed us to hire her. Also the wonderful actor Vj Kesh has come on board to do the narration. Born in south India, he himself has walked India in a dhoti, coming near death on a pilgrimage to the holy sites of the north.
But it’s all dependent on financial help form our friends like you who are interested in seeing this project finished. It will generate no profit for the filmmakers. It will be posted on YouTube for free so as many people as possible can see it. And when someone Googles Mandarava in the future there will be quality content for them to enjoy.
As a musician with Catawampus Universe in the past I made quite a racket, but these days I don’t self-promote much on the internet. Now I’m asking for you to share this Fundrazr campaign with your friends. Because Mandarava was and is a powerful force for good in the world, because her meditations have extended the life of one of the planet’s greatest spiritual masters and scholar, and because I promise to make good art. Thanks! – Joel Crisp