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Laugh and Cry With 'Ram Dass'

June 17, 2002

In a career spanning 35 years, filmmaker Mickey Lemle has seen many of his documentaries broadcast on television. In India alone, he recalls, an astounding 400 million viewers tuned in to watch his film about U.S. astronauts called "The Other Side of the Moon." In Russia, 200 million tuned in.

But Lemle said his latest feature-length documentary, "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace," which begins a one-week run Friday at the Nuart in West Los Angeles, is an experience that can't be replicated on the small screen.

"The humor [on the screen] becomes much more infectious in a theater," Lemle observed. "The poignant moments become much more poignant." You can't duplicate "the experience of people laughing and crying in large groups," he added.

Ram Dass, who was born Richard Alpert, gained a worldwide following after the publication of his 1971 bestseller "Be Here Now." It was Alpert who, in the 1960s, gained fame when he and fellow Harvard professor Timothy Leary conducted early experiments with psychedelics and were subsequently fired by the university. He later traveled to India, where he met a guru affectionately known as Maharaji Ji, who gave him the name Ram Dass, which means servant of God.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 19, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 360 words Type of Material: Correction
Ram Dass caption--Writer and spiritual leader Ram Dass was misidentified as filmmaker Mickey Lemle in a photo caption accompanying an In the Know item in Monday's Calendar about Lemle's documentary "Ram Dass: Fierce Grace."

Five years ago, Ram Dass, who now lives in Marin County, suffered a crippling stroke. Lemle, who has known him for 25 years, began filming his documentary in the months that followed, eventually spending more than two years with his friend.

"A lot of the film deals with how he deals with the effects of his stroke and how he has been using it all these years to get personal spiritual development," Lemle said. "People come up to me after screenings crying and thanking me for the movie and for the experience and giving them a perspective on their own suffering.

"There are people all over the world who love him dearly," Lemle added. "His book, 'Be Here Now,' is still in print. For millions of people, he has opened them up to a sense of their own inner life and their spirituality."

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