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Local Filmmakers Document Quest to Protect the Tibetan Culture

A locally produced documentary is exposing the public to a 50-year quest to save the literary history of a disappearing culture and to preserve early lessons of mankind's consciousness.

Digital Dharma, which two weeks ago had its Philadelphia premiere screening at the Kimmel Center, tells the story of E. Gene Smith, who worked to protect the Tibetan culture by finding and preserving thousand-year-old documents.

Although the crew traveled half way across the world to film, producer Daphna Yachin said that the Philadelphia region is ripe with successful filmmakers and good stories.

The screening of the film at the Kimmel, which was a lead-in toThe Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival in November, was very well received, said Tamela Knapp, line producer for Digital Dharma. And it was “a great satisfaction to the production team in the area,” Yachin said.

Knapp also works with Hotaling Investment Management in Wayne as a marketing consultant.

After Yachin and Knapp learned about Smith’s life and work, “We instantly realize how incredible his story was… The project took on its own life.”

Money for the film was raised from organizations, individuals, and through Kickstarter and Indiegogo, said Yachin, the Chief Creative Officer at Lunchbox Communications in Manayunk.

The documentary is “about how you live your life. You don’t have to be Buddist, we’re not. It’s about having a mission in life, a purpose. And finding how to make change through setting precedent,” she said.

The documentarians recently announced their next project – a social documentary about Tyrell Biggs, the first heavy weight champion of the world who has gone into obscurity in West Philadelphia. A Kickstarter campaign was just launched to help finance it. 

“There are so many great stories that originated in this area and people can come out and support them,” Yachin said.

“We’re really proud to be from this area,” she said. “You don’t need to leave to do really great stories.”

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