Review of “Mission: Joy”: a bland inspirational document on happiness
Although from different origins and faiths, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are linked by their similar struggles for justice and self-determination for all. Their unique friendship is at the heart of “Mission: Joy – Finding Happiness in Troubled Times”, Oscar winner Louie Psihoyos (“The Cove”) and co-director Peggy Callahan’s non-fictional portrayal of their relationship and their common philosophy on the importance of positivity. in individual, family and community life. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, it’s an uplifting look at two revolutionary forces for good, though its appeal largely hinges on viewers’ tolerance for familiar history lessons and generic viewpoints. (if valid) on contentment, anger and forgiveness.
Inspired by the previous bestseller of its subjects, “The Book of Joy”, “Mission: Joy” revolves around a session between Tutu and the Dalai Lama, during which their co-author Doug Abrams questions them about their philosophies concerning the concept of joy. Their ideas turn out to be thoughtful but bland: joy comes from within, rather than materialistic objects and ambitions; joy is good for the mind, body and soul; joy is greatest when it is directed towards others; and suffering – something both men experience, thanks to their respective political trials – can enhance the appreciation of joy, as long as the proper perspective of looking on the bright side is assumed.
These are all basic truths few would dispute, and yet the breadth with which Tutu and the Dalai Lama discuss them – without any mention of the current global unrest – has the effect of making them sound like platitudes. Fortunately, their natural, laughing dynamic keeps things alive. They both recognize each other as their “mischievous spiritual brother,” the men spend most of “Mission: Joy” shaking hands, looking lovingly in each other’s eyes, and chuckling with pleasure at playful taunts. Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth, describes their energy as that of an “eight year old boy” and their ability to find pleasure in the company of one another – even in their old age, with all the misery that they endured and while discussing such important topics – testifies to their belief that joy is a fundamental aspect of a rich and fulfilling life.
Interspersed throughout the couple’s interview, brief recaps of their stories. Archival footage, along with comments by van Furth and Dalai Lama’s translator Thupten Jinpa Langri, recount the Dalai Lama’s education as an elected official and his exile from his native Tibet through Communist China, and of the transformation of Tutu from a teacher into a man of the fabric who helped lead the charge (alongside Nelson Mandela) against South African apartheid. These primers are concise and functional, although far from in-depth or revealing. Even more sketchy are vignettes with a few scientists discussing how their research has proven the physical benefits of being happy, as well as the ability of humans to train for peaceful minds – asides that seem to be proof. centuries old unnecessary to support these spiritual leaders. ‘ideas.
From an aesthetic point of view, “Mission: Joy” is about as simple as it gets; only a few beautifully animated sequences (representing the childhood of men) energize the competent pedestrian action. The selling point of the whole affair is to learn and enjoy the affection shared by Tutu and the Dalai Lama, and Psihoyos and Callahan don’t skimp in this regard, their film constantly reveling in mutual respect and the duo’s admiration for each. other. Their palpable joy at being together makes them not only unique beacons of hope, but exemplars of the principles they espouse. Given the borderline-prosaic nature of their convo, however, it’s easy to imagine that the mileage for such gushing chatter varies.