‘Yangsi’ is the most personal film I have made. It follows the path of a four your old boy, the incarnation of one of the most revered Tibetan Lamas of the twentieth century, from early childhood until he reaches maturity. The Lama, Dilgo Khyenste Rinpoche was the teacher of my teacher, the boy an enchanting little being with whom I made an immediate connection when I first met him at the age of four. He is called ‘The Yangsi’, the one who has come again into existence.
The young boy has a lot to live up to. His previous incarnation was known to millions as a great saint. How does he does he deal with the expectations placed upon him? And his circumstances are so different from his previous life as a Yogi who spent more than twenty years in retreat in mountain solitude in his homeland.
The Yangsi has to deal with the modern world. How does he face the challenge of preserving his ancient lineage and making it relevant? At the age of four he already finds himself in the spotlight as fifteen thousand people attend his enthronement in Boudhanath, Nepal.
Originally I had planned just to film this enthronement. Then it occurred to me that it would be very worthwhile to keep filming him over the years to see how he grew up, and how he met these challenges. So I returned every few years to capture various chapters in his development. Much of “Yangsi’ was filmed in Bhutan, where he receives his training in this beautiful and isolated mountain kingdom.
Making this film has been a wonderfully satisfying journey. The complete friendliness and openness with which I was treated by the Yangsi, his teachers and attendants, as well as his birth family, was quite stunning. Now twenty years old, the Yangsi has fully come into his inheritance, showing a wisdom and maturity far beyond his years. It has been a privilege to get to know him, and to share my experience of him in this film.