Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu Share the Secret of Finding ‘Happiness in Troubled Times’

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the irrepressible spiritual duo, Nobel Peace Laureates and self-described “mischievous brothers” known for their playful banter, are the stars in a new film that explores their extraordinary friendship spanning decades.

The 14th Dalai Lama with Desmond Tutu in 2004.
The 14th Dalai Lama with Desmond Tutu in 2004 (From the private collection of Carey Linde, licensed under Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Mission: Joy—Finding Happiness in Troubled Times was released June 12 by Tribeca at Home, an online streaming platform that features films from the Tribeca annual film festival.

The two religious leaders reunited online over a videoconference on the day of the film’s release. The Dalai Lama spoke to Tutu from his Himalayan residence in Dharamshala, India, where he has lived in exile since fleeing Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959, and where he celebrated his 86th birthday July 6.

The film is directed by Louie Psihoyos, a former photographer for National Geographic noted for numerous images on the magazine’s covers. His first documentary film, The Cove, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film in 2010.

The film is inspired by The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, a 2016 publication written by the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop, with co-author Douglas Abrams. The two leaders collaborated on the book in 2015 when Tutu traveled to India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.

The Tibetan leader has been the symbol of the nonviolent movement against Chinese repression of his native Tibet, and Tutu spent decades leading the peaceful yet forceful opposition to the dehumanizing apartheid of South Africa. Both spiritual leaders survived more than half a century of extreme hardships, and the book shares how they found joy despite life’s inevitable challenges.

The film features archival footage, intimate stories, conversations about the spiritual beliefs the two leaders shared.

Besides being a reflection on their “personal hardships as well as the burden both men carry as world leaders dedicated to bringing justice,” the film’s creators describe it as a delightful exploration of their “ability to maintain a mischievous and playful spirit in the face of their circumstances.”

Their life stories underscore that “joy and pain are inseparable, and that deep connection is one of the secrets to joy.”


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Dalai Lama Interfaith religious leaders Desmond Tutu