If it’s ever bothered you that there are no movies about Tibetan Buddhist metalheads, relax. For two nights, Friday and Saturday (September 16 and 17), the Denman Cinemas is presenting the riveting documentary Journey of a Dream, which follows Tibetan exile, Vancouverite, and monster shredder Shenpenn Khymsar on a journey back to his roots.
Khymsar was born and raised in a displaced Tibetan community in Darjeeling, India. What we learn in Journey of a Dream, which plays as a pleasingly winding essay, is that Darjeeling once had one of the most unique and active western-influenced music scenes on the planet.
“That was one of my major reasons for making the film,” Khymsar told the Straight. “Way before I came to the West, I knew about Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, you name it. And it was only because I was born and raised in Darjeeling, which used to be the summer capital of the British when they ruled India.”
Khymsar recently finished writing his band Avatara’s newest record, “but I’ve just been so busy with this film”, he said of the self-financed ($500,000) three-year project. “It literally has taken me to hell and back, but it’s helped me to grow a lot.”
Besides hell, the film also took him to Lhasa (which he captures with a hidden camera), Dharamsala, and New York. By the end, we see Khymsar addressing a free-Tibet protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Somewhere along its path, this Journey enters what the director unabashedly calls “my propaganda”.
“I’m also a Tibetan activist,” he said, “[but] I wanted the world to know we’re like everybody else. We have good people, bad people, angry people. I have never been perceived as a normal Tibetan. I’ve noticed that every Tibetan documentary that comes out, it caters to the same crowd, the same demographic. I wanted this to be my propaganda and, hopefully, tap into a whole new breed of Tibetan supporters.”
Which is not to forget the film’s other fight: “And also give much needed respect to the genre of metal.”
Both nights there is live music and a wine bar, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., before the 90-minute film. There will be a Q & A with Khymsar following each screening.