Sometimes, wisdom hides in simplicity. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu agreed to a sit down on camera, the delightful and profound film Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times emerged. Screening as one of the Tribeca Film Festival 2021 Online Premieres, the documentary offers a welcome perspectives from these icons of peace. Mission: Joy is an important film for our time.
Directed by Academy Award®-winner Louie Psihoyos, the documentary reveals the humanity of these divines. The New York Times bestseller The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World inspired the film, in which Psihoyos highlights the great friendship between these two mischievous spiritual brothers. Book coauthor Doug Abrams’ questions provide the pathway to discovering their lightheartedness. Psihoyos emphasizes their process of staying the course while confronting human nature’s most egregious manifestations of wickedness.
As the film showcases the exchange between these two humble men of different faiths and backgrounds, we marvel at their relationship. Not only do they tease each other, they express affection, hold hands and share endearments as old friends. Though they hail from entirely disparate backgrounds and life philosophies, there is much similarity in their advocacy for their people and encouragement to triumph over oppression.
For Tutu, South Africa’s apartheid system oppressed and destroyed his people and culture. He and the ANC led massive protests to change world opinion and the government. Similarly, His Holiness the Dalai Lama escaped his country of Tibet in the face of China’s aggression. His escape elevated his global renown and respect.
Buddhism meets Christianity intriguingly in Mission: Joy. Tutu explains that the Dalai Lama’s confrontation with China freed him to be an ambassador of peace to the world. If the Chinese had foreseen how their warlike actions would increase the Dalai Lama’s reach and influence, they surely would have acted differently. Thus, Tutu affirms that every action against us holds opportunities for strength and triumph. We have only to envision it. Once envisioned, determination grows.
The filmmaker rounds out their stories using archival footage. And the commentary from van Furth and the Dalai Lama’s translator Thupten Jinpa Langri clarifies the differences between these Nobel Prize winners.
The men agreed to meet over five days at the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala. The never-before-seen footage reveals the treasured acumen of these elders. Surely, the fiery trials they faced refined them for peace and joy. To help us understand the breadth of what they faced, Psihoyos includes graphic renderings. Additionally, Tutu’s daughter Mpho Tutu van Furth fills in salient moments of her Dad’s backstory, and likens their enthusiasm, delight and innocence in each other’s company to that of children. Significantly, their advanced age and keen minds reflect their inner contentment and satisfaction. In light of the troubles they endured, their joyful relationship, love and inner peace provide an example for us to mirror.
With respect and affection, these unlikely friends share their simple, infinite wisdom in Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times. How easy their sage maxims flow off their tongues. Yet, how impossible for us to be generous, selfless, humble, forgiving. We need to hear such maxims again and again. For only with practice and mindfulness such as these two men have accomplished can daily peace and joy be ours.
In its extraordinary perspective of these mavericks of goodness, Mission: Joy is a balm for soul wounds. Indeed, it reveals that if these individuals can employ the wisdom of joy, so can we. It is only a matter of doing.
Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times screens at Tribeca Film Festival 2021 until 20 June. For tickets and times CLICK HERE.