Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait–Khyentse Norbu’s Fourth Feature

Veteran British producer Jeremy Thomas serves as executive producer of Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait, Bhutanese lama and film director Khyentse Norbu’s  fourth feature, which world premiers in Locarno today. It is a natural development of a long rapport that began during the Bhutan shoot for Bertolucci’s 1993 film Little Buddha.

Norbu served as a consultant for Bertolucci. He then went to film school in New York and made a splash with his directorial debut “The Cup,” in 1999, about a bunch of soccer-crazed Tibetan monks who rent a satellite dish to watch the 1998 World Cup final.

Norbu then made in 2003 Travellers and Magicians, in which a young Bhutanese government official dreams of escaping to America, followed in 2003

Vara: A Blessing,” a tale of forbidden love between a Hindi dancer and a Muslim sculptor, followed in 2013.

 These titles have all been executive produced by Thomas and distributed by his HanWay Films.

“I’ve been with him in all his films, to sort of support him” says Thomas, who spent a long time in Bhutan for “Little Buddha.” “It’s very interesting to be with a director like that because of the culture that evolves,” he notes.

Norbu, who Thomas described as the most important Buddhist figure in Buthan, comes from a long line of spiritual teachers. He is considered to be the incarnation of the 19th century saint Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

“He also has an enormous film knowledge; really knows cinema back to front,” Thomas underlines. And “the story that he’s telling in this film it has a credibility to it, because of his telling the story. It’s the story of a man’s spiritual journey to act the way you would act if you had no identity.

Thomas’ role is really as an advisor on all the aspects of the film. The producer is Pawo Choyning Dorji who is in Locarno with Thomas and “Hema Hema” actors Thinley Dorji, Tshering Dorji, and Sadon Lhamo.   Khyentse Norbu could not make the trek because of teaching duties.