Tenpa Dorjee isn't seeking to raise money for strangers with his charity project in Laguna Beach. The Indian monastery that will benefit from the campaign has a human face attached to it — one that Dorjee believes he's seen in multiple forms.
On April 18, the Laguna Beach Film Society will screen the 2003 drama "Travellers and Magicians," the first feature film shot in the Asian country of Bhutan. Dorjee, the owner of Tibet Handicrafts in Laguna, is in charge of selling 100 tickets for the show. All proceeds will go toward the religious education of a boy who lives in Dorjee's home village, and who, according to Dorjee, is believed to be the reincarnation of a recently deceased Buddhist master.
Earlier this year, Dorjee's grass-roots campaign, known as Sharing Light, raised $10,000 in Laguna to fund solar lighting in the village. For the film society fundraiser, the group has a much more specific goal.
"Any money we raise from the movie, we want to put aside," said Dorjee, who lives in Anaheim and opened his shop in Laguna in 2010.
Some of the "Travellers" tickets are available in Tibet Handicrafts at 384 Forest Ave.; Dorjee has put a poster and fliers around the store and informs customers when they walk in. He'll have another opportunity before the screening to give a plug: Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sharing Light will host a community dinner nearby at the Neighborhood Congregational Church, which includes a short presentation about the solar project.
Film society chair George Weiss, who favors eclectic programs, chose "Travellers" in part because he thought it might appeal to the local Buddhist crowd and in part because it has a Southern California connection — cinematographer Alan Kozlowski, a Santa Monica resident, will be in attendance at the screening to introduce the film.
Adding a charity element to the event, Weiss said, was a bonus.
"I've got 350 seats to fill," he said. "So I'm thinking, 'Why not have a local organization sell tickets to these films if they can and raise money for a good cause?'"
"Travellers," which won the Emerging Director Award at the Asian American International Film Festival in 2004, tells the story of a young government official who dreams of escaping his job in a remote rural village and seeking a headier life in America. As he hitchhikes away, a yarn about another restless young man told by a fellow traveler — a monk — leads the official to question the wisdom of his trip.
According to Kozlowski, the making of the film was a trek in itself: The filmmakers used aspiring Bhutanese filmmakers as trainees, per the request of the country's royal family, while director Khyentse Norbu often paused production for Buddhist ceremonies. All the actors in the film were local non-professionals, which led to a tricky situation at least once.
"There was one itinerant man who disappeared and never showed up again," Kozlowski remembered. "So we had to rewrite his part."
If You Go
What: "Travellers and Magicians"
Where: Laguna South Coast Cinemas, 162 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
When: 7 p.m. April 18
Cost: $8 presale, $10 at the door, $5 for students; $20 for package that includes 6 p.m. pre-film reception at Laguna Art Museum, wine, appetizers and movie
Information: (949) 494-8971, ext. 203 or http://www.lagunaartmuseum.org/lbfs