John DiLeva Halpern
John DiLeva Halpern, a film director/producer and artist based in New York, is currently producing/directing WAKING BUDDHA, about the story of the meditation movement and Buddhism’s relationship to today’s new consciously engaged culture for a sustainable future.
Growing up in a richly creative and intellectual Italian-American household on Long Island, DiLeva Halpern learned photography and filming from his grandfather John, as well as jazz improvisation on the bongos from his uncle Tom, a Beatnik and pianist. Through their friendships with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, John’s mother and uncle introduced him to Buddhist lore and concepts.
As a young student, DiLeva Halpern gained inspiration not only from the Beatniks, but also from cultural movements such as Dadaism, Pop Art and Happenings, and the Neo-Realist /New Wave films of the 1950s, ?60s and ?70s. During high school, instructor Gerard Rinaldi, an artist and former Green Beret, helped influence his artistic outlook, and he later received mentoring at SUNY Purchase from noted Beat filmmaker and photographer John Cohen (interviewed in Martin Scorsese’s film on Bob Dylan, No Direction Home) and his Buddhist colleagues.
DiLeva Halpern’s early love of Buddhism blossomed during his final college years. During the time he earned his BFA in fine art and filmmaking in 1977, he lived in the Massachusetts cabin where lama Chögyam Trungpa realized the “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” lectures, which later become his hallmark book of the same name.
Within a few months, DiLeva Halpern and his friends executed BRIDGING, a conceptual art event involving a climb on all seven suspension bridges in Manhattan, during rush hour, with the goal of keeping “terrorism off the front page for one day.” It won Best News of the Year in 1977 (WABC-TV).
By 1977, he had already directed several art films. But it wasn’t until after Ronald Feldman, a New York gallerist, introduced avant-garde German artist Joseph Beuys to DiLeva Halpern’s work, that the director would begin work on his first documentary, JOSEPH BEUYS/ TRANSFORMER.
However, after the overwhelming media attention paid to BRIDGING, followed by a three-month collaboration with Beuys in Germany, DiLeva Halpern decided to immerse himself in contemplative practices for the next three years, retreating to Italy to learn yoga from Radames Silvestri, a B.K.S. Iyengar protégé. This would ultimately lead him to keep the final editing of TRANSFORMER on hold until 1987.
Shortly after his immersion in yoga, His Holiness Jigrel Yeshe Dorje Dudjom Rinpoche initiated him in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and yoga. His Holiness passed away in 1987, as did Beuys and Andy Warhol, another supporter and co-exhibitor of DiLeva Halpern’s.
In 1988, due to the TRANSFORMER’s immediate success and acceptance in the art world, DiLeva Halpern directed and produced numerous interactive public art events in Europe and the US, engaging many thousands of participants. His SMOKESCULPTURE; BREATHSCULPTURE; FRESH AIR; and, NEW CONSUME events addressed the ecologic/ environmental crisis that subsequently became the cornerstone of 21st century activism.
In 1992, at the Tate Modern in London, DiLeva Halpern exhibited these public works under the rubric “Art For The 21st Century.” The Swiss government, in 1996, awarded his New Consume studio in Bern a prize for its innovative ALPS project for art and economy.
Throughout his career, DiLeva Halpern has related to mass media as a primary communication medium for social-creative messaging and “cultural activism.” Using Pop icons like Joseph Beuys, the Dalai Lama, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and others, as characters in a great cultural tapestry or “thanka,” he attempts to catalyze and inspire in audiences an initiative of personal and collective humanitarian-ecologic advocacy through the films TRANSFORMER; REFUGE; and, TALKING WITH THE DALAI LAMA.
Through personal and professional exposure since the late 1970s to Tibetan Buddhist culture and spirituality, he advocated for the Tibetan humanitarian crisis at the United Nations in 2011. He also contributes to the religion section of The Huffington Post.
WAKING BUDDHA, DiLeva Halpern’s new film about spiritual-intelligence and altruism, weaves together in natural progression the story of 20th century Tibet with the 21st century’s social evolution of aware and engaged activism.
DiLeva Halpern is married to Swiss artist, Katrin Roos. They live in the Inwood section of Manhattan. His filmmaker brother, Alex, and sister-in-law, Caryn, own Post Factory NY, a major boutique editing studio. Together with Julia and Jim Miller of Digipowers, they are providing in-kind services to WAKING BUDDHA.