THE DHARMA BUM is a feature length, part animated documentary, on the tantalising subject of a freethinking atheist alcoholic Irish hobo, born in 1856, who traveled across the globe to Burma, renounced the bottle, shaved his head, became a monk and in doing so could very well prove to be the missing link in the origin story of Western Buddhism!
THE DHARMA BUM: The Untold Story of U Dhammaloka –
The First Western Buddhist Monk
The Dharma Bum is a feature documentary film directed by Ian Lawton that unearths the adventure story of Laurence Carroll, a free-thinking atheist alcoholic Irishman born in Dublin in the late 1800s, who went on to become U Dhammaloka - the world's first Western Buddhist monk.
Legend has it that in the dawn of the 20th century, Laurence ordained as a Buddhist monk in a remote forest monastery in Burma, aka Myanmar, where he trained in ancient Buddhist practices, while maintaining an activism that denounced dogma, orthodoxy, the hypocrisies of the Church and his own Catholic upbringing.
Standing up to the British Colonialists who were spreading over Southeast Asia at the time, Dhammaloka was under constant police surveillance until his conviction for sedition. After traveling the world under multiple aliases, faking his own death, being an outspoken activist, spending 13 years as a monk, Dhammaloka mysteriously disappeared, without a trace.
Over the following century knowledge of his life was lost from history. Only recently has his groundbreaking story been unearthed.
When The Dharma Bum is released, it will provide audiences worldwide with the missing link in the origin story of Western Buddhism.
"It is criminal that such a man was written out of history for simply standing up for what he believed in, it is my mission to make his life and legacy known."
- Ian Lawton Producer/ Director of The Dharma Bum
"A migrant worker from Dublin, Dhammaloka was an autodidact, atheist and temperance campaigner who became known throughout colonial Asia as an implacable critic of Christian missionaries and a tireless transnational organizer of Asian Buddhists from Burma to Japan and from Singapore to Siam."
As tempting as it is, we are reluctant to reveal too much about Dhammaloka on this page, after all, that is what the documentary is for!
Please scroll to the bottom of the page for a concise Q&A on Dhammaloka.
Below is a longer, more in depth version of our pitch video, for those of you seeking a little more information.
Since 2009, three professors on opposite sides of the globe have been meticulously researching Dhammaloka. With their intense detective work they have gradually pieced together this fascinating mans life.
Prof Alicia Turner (York University, Toronto, Canada) discovered evidence of an event that happened in Burma, Dr Laurence Cox (National University of Ireland, Maynooth) found evidence in Ireland, while Prof Brian Bocking (University College Cork, Ireland) realized they were talking about the same person and brought them together. The trio have been working tirelessly together ever since.
When award winning filmmaker Ian Lawton first learned of the existence of Dhammaloka he was inspired, but also perplexed that such a figure would remain unknown. One evening, after reading a short article on the BBC website on the subject of Dhammaloka, he immediately reached out to the team. He met with Laurence in person, as he was closest and pitched the idea of making a documentary film on the subject of his research. Over the next few weeks, he won the trust of the rest of the team and the prospect of making a film became more and more of a reality.
For the past few months Ian has put together a production team and has worked exclusively, putting other projects on hold, to bring the story of Dhammalokas life to the screen. All that is preventing the team from going into production is financing. This is where you, dear reader, come in. That is why this page exists. We need funding to bring this story to the wider audience Dhaammaloka deserves.
Serendipitously, the same week Ian discovered Dhammaloka, the new Buddhist crowdfunding platform dana.io was announced. Within a week Ian was discussing the future of The Dharma Bum with Alan Clements the founder of dana.io. Fueled by Alan's enthusiasm for a film he considered "essential", Ian has brought the project to the condition you see it in now.
We aim to make a feature length documentary on the fascinating life story of our subject U Dhammaloka. This captivating story needs to be told. But seeing as Dhammalokas most active years were between 1901 and 1911, no footage of him exists apart from one posed photograph (as used in our poster) of how he looked at age 50. Ian, coming from a background in animation proposes to realize certain key moments in this story, beautifully rendered in hand drawn animation.
To help realize this vision, Ian has teamed up with internationally acclaimed animator Paul Bolger of Pillarstone Productions to co-produce the animated segments of our film.
The device of using animation is nothing new to documentary filmmaking, many films resort to infographics and such to impart information. The Dharma Bum will be different insofar as we only really have Dhammalokas own word to go on, there are no photographs or news reels to back up his story, therefore the animation will play a large part in the realization of the story of this fascinating man.
As for the style, both Paul and Ian have been busy coming up with concept artwork for the film. (Some of which can bee seen below). It is important for them as artists to find a balance between the photoreal and the cartoon in order to communicate the story truthfully. We believe Dhammaloka as a personality, to be a bit of a joker, so the temptation to lean toward the cartoon exists, yet what he stood for commands a respect so a more balanced style is appropriate.
Concepts by Paul Bolger/ Pillarstone Productions
Concepts by Ian Lawton/ Reasonanably Shorts
One of the most satisfying parts of the process in developing this project thus far has been receiving demo's of music from Mumblin' Deaf Ro. He is really on to something tonally, as evidenced by his original music specially composed for the films teaser trailer The inevitable soundtrack album that will accompany this film is worth the price of admission alone, particularly if you are a fan of his previous work. It will be a treat to have another Mumblin' Deaf Ro album to add to our collections. But remember, without your donations, it won't happen. No film, no score, no album. Please help make it happen.
Below is a video of the recording session for the trailer music along with a few words from Ronan.
We want to tell this story the way it should be told, without any interference. To tell the story Dhammaloka never got a chance to tell and to bring that story to the world. To be honest and truthful. To change history.
But, filmmaking is costly endeavor. Particularly a film as ambitious as ours. Sure, the cost of animation has come down in recent years and the process has been revolutionized by technology, but it still needs human beings to create the work. A talented team of animators need to be assembled.
Furthermore, we need to travel to conduct the essential interviews needed to piece together the narrative of the film.
If we can, the possibility of visiting the monastery in which he was ordained in Burma to hopefully follow in the great mans footsteps a little and capture it on film, again, budget permitting.
Whatever we can do to serve the story we will endeavor to do, but it is all dictated by the amount of funds we raise. We want to make the best film possible to justify bringing this story to the public. The bigger our budget the more clout we will have when it comes to distributing this film. Can we get it in theaters? Can we get it in film festivals? Can we get it on Netflix where everyone has access to this story at the touch of a button? But we cant do it it without your support. If you believe in this story as much as we do, please be a part of the process in bringing this to the screen. Dhammaloka deserves it. He has earned his posthumous celebrity and his place in the public consciousness.
Whether you are Buddhist, atheist, activist, religious or no, this is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. About standing up to authority, for believing in ones convictions no matter what the odds.
Please, we implore you, from the bottom of our hearts, help us reach our goal, not for us, but for Dhammaloka himself.
"Irishmen have been at the centre of some notorious legal trials. Charles Stewart Parnell, Oscar Wild and Roger Casement feature prominently in history books but, thanks to the unlikely "rediscovery" of a Dublin-born campaigner against colonial rule in Burma, we can add another name to the list: Dhammaloka..."
- Joe Humphreys The Irish Times
If you agree that this great man's story deserves to be told, please choose a gift to the right of your screen. Or if you chose to, give the gift of dana without receiving a gift. Anything you can spare is a step toward making this dream a reality. If indeed you cannot give and still feel this film should be made, please help us spread the word by sharing this page www.dana.io/thedharmabum far and wide. Thank you!
For those of you thinking that you'll wait instead until the movie is out and torrent it. Remember, there will be nothing for you to torrent if this film doesn't get made! If you really want to see this film, please help us make it. If you can't afford to contribute, please spread the word, you may know someone who does!
We've implemented what we think is a very accessible model. We want everybody to see this film, therefore we've priced it in such a way that even for the smallest donation, one still gets to see the final film.
Borrowing the Pay What You Want concept from Radiohead when they released In Rainbows and in turn combining it with Harmony Korine's download option of, the more you pay, the more resolution you get...
As a result, the smallest donation of €1.00 ($1.26 aprox), you get to see the movie at smartphone resolution. The more you donate, the more resolution you get in return. Yet, full HD is still only €15.00 ($19.00aprox)! Simple!
This way everyone gets to see the finished film and not just a thank you on Twitter!
Before you go, why not take another 30 seconds to enjoy our teaser trailer.