This year at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Crazy Wisdom made its debut. The film is about the life and times of Buddhism’s bad boy Chogyam Trungpa. This feature film takes us through the teacher’s life from when he eloped with a 16-year-old to the time he brought his teachings upon American hippies.  Check out our review of Crazy Wisdon: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche below…

The Players:

  • Director: Johanna Demetrakas
  • Producer: Lisa Leeman
  • Cinematography: Pablo Bryant

The Plot:

Crazy Wisdom explores the life and “crazy wisdom” of Chogyam Trungpa, or ‘the bad boy of Buddhism,’ who brought Tibetan Buddhism to the West. The documentary travels to Tibet, London and the U.S. and interviews people who were intimately involved with the teacher.

The Good:

  • Interviews: From the great poet Allen Ginsburg who studied with Trungpa for years to Diana Mukpo, Trungpa’s wife, the film is defined by its many interviews. We get to see how Trungpa was a great teacher to people like Ginsburg and other spiritual teachers like Bhagavan Das, but also a great friend to those who were close to him like his wife and son, Sakyong Mipham.Each of these interviews bring their certain view and give the viewer a look into what like would’ve been as Trungpa’s student, wife or son.
  • Archival Footage: There’s a lot of footage of Trungpa giving sermons to crowds, and it almost feels as if it wasn’t archival footage from the 60s, but it’s as if the cinematographer was there filming.
  • Emotion: At times the people being interviewed started to cry when mentioning the teacher and it was amazing to see the love these people had for Trungpa. Even though he was a famed spiritual leader, the emotion doesn’t come from a fanatical angle, but from an honest place because many of these people lived and grew with Trungpa.

The Not-So-Good:

  • Clarity: It’s never really clear what the teachings of Trungpa were, except that he came from a Buddhist background. Despite the amazing and emotional interviews, the only thing that’s clear is that he was an unconventional teacher.


Like any documentary, Crazy Wisdom is trying to teach us something. There’s a lot of information and a lot of interviews, and you can see the large amount of love the students had for their teacher (guru). But for someone who doesn’t really know what the teachings of Trungpa were, it’s hard to understand exactly what they were through this movie. I suggest reading up on his teachings and then diving into this documentary.

Rating: 7/10

In select theaters.


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Interested in watching Crazy Wisdom?