Funded! This project was successfully funded on January 22, 2012.


Amid political turmoil, pacifist E. Gene Smith, a Mormon from Utah, triggers an international movement to save Tibetan Buddhism.

About the Film

Digital Dharma uncovers E. Gene Smith's 50-year journey with renowned scholars, lamas and laypeople as they struggle to find, preserve and digitize more than 20,000 volumes of ancient Tibetan text. Crossing multiple borders – geographic, political and philosophical – Digital Dharma is an epic story of a cultural rescue and how one man’s mission became the catalyst for an international movement to provide free access to the story of a people.

To view the trailer and to find out more information on the film please visit our website:

To become a fan of the film on Facebook, please visit:

About the Mission

In 1959, Tibetan villages were attacked and hundreds of monasteries were destroyed, causing irreplaceable ancient Sanskrit and Tibetan writings to disappear.  This tumultuous time put the history of the entire Tibetan culture in peril - and called a man from Ogden, Utah to his destiny. 

E. Gene Smith became the unlikely leader in an effort to rescue, preserve and share the riches of a 1,500-year-old seemingly lost Tibetan literary culture.  Smith’s mission crossed geographical, political and philosophical borders to rescue this chronicle of mankind's advancements—from the medical to the mystical. 

With the Buddhist thought at its core, his goal was to digitize the more than 20,000 volumes he rescued in order to provide free access to the story of a people. With technological advancement speeding forward, Gene’s vision was to make these texts accessible to everyone, even in the most remote monasteries and villages, and preserve the knowledge they contain for humanity.

Rangjung Yeshe Institute, Nepal: Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche prostrating with a MiniMac he just received from E. Gene Smith that contains 12,000 texts

About the Man

Gene Smith would have never considered himself a hero. At most, he would have called himself a committed librarian. I met him while directing another documentary short in 2006.  He was extraordinarily humble, unassuming and an unlikely lead character.  It was not until a year passed that I was made fully aware of his mission and the importance of his achievements on world history and diplomacy. 

Gene’s quiet revolution began in the early 60’s when he avoided the Vietnam war draft by attending the University of Washington. He took up Tibetan Buddhism as an academic pursuit and offered to help the refugee family of Deshung Rinpoche -- one of the most learned lamas out of Tibet -- assimilate into American life. Deshung taught Gene about Tibetan culture and Buddhism.With no books to teach with, Deshung urged his eager student to go to Asia to find the missing texts.

With thousands of texts collected in his lifetime and possession of the last known handwritten Tibetan catalog of text locations, Gene became known as the protector of the Tibetan Canon.  His sudden death in December 2010 was a real life dramatic twist that underscored the urgency to tell Gene's remarkable story as soon as possible. The week Gene died, he became the lead obituary in world press like The New York Times, The Telegraph and The Economist; with leading headlines like “The American Lama who Saved Tibetan Literature”. 

We were fortunate to have over sixty hours recorded on HD of the text preservation efforts of this gentle giant of diplomacy and now iconic figure in American/Asian history, and I am honored to have the chance to share his story.

The Journey Continues

We've recently completed the 86-minute fine cut of Digital Dharma. We are so close but need support to fund the finishing costs of this HD film (music score, audio mix and color correction) in order to distribute the film in its best version. This Kickstarter campaign goal of $30,000.00 will cover the above costs for the feature-length film.

We will then need additional funds for:
  • Film festival entry fees and attendance cost
  • Creating a strong marketing campaign to secure international distribution, so that E. Gene Smith's story and mission can be heard in every corner of the world.
  • Editing a 52 minute of Digital Dharma for Television Broadcast along with language translation fees

Please pass on the trailer and tell your friends about the protect: Facebook it, Tweet it, Blog it, whatever you can do to help spread the word! We hope to get a lot of people to see this film, hear about E. Gene Smith’s mission and learn more about the rescue of ancient Tibetan writings.  Many thanks!

His Holiness Menri Trizen the 33rd shows Gene the only text he had with him when he fled Tibet.


Some examples of the beautiful pieces made by Rosanne Smith, Gene's sister:

The commercial DVD upon its release:

As a part of the promotional package, receive the Digital Dharma T-shirt:

To see more information on how to receive these wonderful rewards for backing us, take a look at the rewards column to the right!

Photos and stills from the making of the film


Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    “Good Karma Digital Dharma” bumper sticker.

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    Clay prayer charm created by Gene's sister Rosanne.

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    Commercial DVD of Digital Dharma upon its release, as well as a "Good Karma" bumper sticker

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    The complete promotion set: Digital Dharma T-shirt & official movie poster signed by the director, plus the “Good Karma” bumper sticker.

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    Clay recreation (created by Gene's sister, Rosanne) of a dharma wheel pin worn by Gene. The original pin was very special to Gene, and he wore it often. Can be worn as a pin or as a necklace.

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    33 backers

    The ultimate package requested by our Backers! Commercial DVD of Digital Dharma upon its release PLUS the complete promotions set: Digital Dharma T-shirt, official movie poster signed by the director and the “Good Karma” bumper sticker.

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    42 backers

    A Digital Dharma USB flash-drive packed with extras from the film, including unseen outtakes and behind-the-scenes photos. The USB is delivered in a silk bag, just like the ones Gene gave back to the monks.

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    Private online screening of the film streamed through the Vcopious platform. Watch Gene's story in your own living room, before the release of the DVD. Also receive the Digital Dharma T-shirt & movie poster.

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    1 of 5 handmade ceramic sculptures created by Gene's sister, Rosanne, plus a hand-written thank you letter from the director.

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    A Khata (ceremonial white scarf used for special occasions) that belonged to Gene, plus dinner with the director and a special guest in your hometown (limited to East Coast, U.S.), as well as the USB flash-drive in a silk bag.

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    5 backers Limited (10 left of 15)

    Receive 1 of 15 special first edition coffee table books that include breathtaking shots from Gene’s journey, taken by the director. Also receive the USB flash-drive in a silk bag.

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    See your name on the big screen! Receive “Associate Producer” credit in the film, plus all rewards up to and including the private screening via the Vcopious platform.

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Funding period

- (60 days)