Short documentaries of Tom Riddle (USA) – a service to the Sangha, our school and Dharma teachers

I invited Tom Riddle, short filmmaker and photographer from the USA, to provide me with clips of some of his short documentaries to show readers of my blog/post.

Tom sat a retreat with me in the early 1990s in the Royal Thai Monastery in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. During the 1990s, I asked to make short films on our Prajna Vihar School in Bodh Gaya as a fundraiser in the West. His delightful films helped raise some of the money to pay for the building and running costs of the school. Today the school hosts more than 600 children. Every penny goes to support the school.

Most of the children have come from the poorest families in the nearby villages/township.

Tom has made short films including our Yatras (pilgrimages) in France, teachings of Dharma teachers and provided our Sangha with numerous photographs of Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Totnes friends, retreats and more.

I asked Tom about his love of making short documentaries whether for international aid organisations or for Dharma wallahs.

Here is the response from Tom
In 1999, I learned that it had recently become possible to edit digital movies on a portable computer.  Upon learning this, I bought a digital movie camera and went to movie school in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter I started making movies for non-governmental organizations in Southeast Asia. It was a great job.

I made movies in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Unfortunately, my career as a movie-maker ended when everyone else became a movie-maker. These days I just make movies for fun and occasionally for friends.

I made a few movies for the school in Bodh Gaya that Christopher supports. My favourite is a movie I made in 2014 – One day in the life of the Prajna Vihar School,


In less than five minutes, a teenage student in the school, Jyoti Kumari, explains a typical day there. These days Jyoti is 25 and a “Senior Representative of Operations” at Amazon. Her job entails answering customer queries in German from her home in Bodh Gaya.

A couple of years after I made that movie, a Hindi-speaking British woman and I interviewed students and parents about the school,

In just over 8 minutes you can hear some touching thoughts on education and realize how fortunate you are.

Making those movies was eye-opening for me in many ways. The PV school has helped lift hundreds of children out of poverty.

Those movies have been watched thousands of times; two of my movies have been watched over a million times.

The Superman Dogcatchers of India – Sarvodaya Vets” ,

This film has 1.5 million views. It would have 5 million views if I hadn’t turned off the comments. I had to turn the comments off after they became overheated with people expressing very strong views for and against controlling India’s stray dog population.  The film features the dog catchers and some very cute dogs.

My greatest hit, with just under 2 million views, is a 25-minute movie about the most sacred mountain in Tibet, Mt Kailash,

The video has over 2,500 comments. Some of the comments are very touching while others, like the people who believe that Mt Kailash is the Tower of Babel, are funny.

Thank You, Tom.

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