The International Buddhist Film Festival (IBFF) returns to London this Spring, bringing a compelling selection of Buddhist cinema to the capital from 11-15 April 2012 at the Apollo Piccadilly Circus. The diverse programme will showcase more than a dozen feature films and documentaries, most of which are European and UK premieres – from a Thai murder mystery and a Nepali road movie about a Tibetan nun’s journey to Katmandu to recover a debt, to a host of docs including a Richard Gere narrated exploration of the life of Buddha. Now celebrating its 10th year, the IBFF has presented festivals in cities across the world from LA, Washington DC and Mexico City to Amsterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong. This will be the first time the IBFF has visited the UK since 2009.
CultHub will be bringing you the reviews to many of the screenings during the festival but for now, check out the synopsis of some of the most inspirational films you’ll see this year. Find further details of all the screenings on the official IBFF website.
A punk rock veteran, now a married Buddhist priest, has a crisis of identity. This film touches on karma, self, compassion, community, impermanence, fathers and sons, relative and absolute, noise and music… and weaves bravely between heartfelt emotion and jaunty farce. A soft spot for thrash punk (and Leonard Cohen) will add to the pleasure.
The Buddha (UK Premiere)
An ambitious and imaginative film that uses animation and contemporary voices including poets Jane Hirshfield and US Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin, and Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman to explore the life and meaning of the man who became “awake,” and who continues to inspire the diverse Buddhist traditions all over the world.
Crazy Wisdom (European Premiere)
This feature documentary explores the life, teachings, and “crazy wisdom” of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Raised and trained in the rigorous Tibetan monastic tradition, Trungpa shattered preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave, yet his teachings are recognized as authentic, vast, and influential.
The Great Pilgrim (European Premiere)
One of the most celebrated journeys in history is that of Tang dynasty Chinese monk Xuanzang who traveled to India and brought back essential Buddhist texts and teachings. Reenactments, location filming and animation are compellingly used to introduce a truly legendary figure (the inspiration for the many Journey to the West and Monkey stories and films).
A mysterious and compelling meditation on sound, song, story, ritual, performance, nature, tradition and Japanese Buddhism… A fearless merging of medieval and modern, beautifully filmed with a variety of cinematic techniques on location in Japan. Kanzeon is another way of saying Kannon (Chinese: Kuan Yin), and can also be written in Japanese as “to see sounds.”
Karma (European Premiere)
In a remote nunnery a revered abbess dies. Prayers and rituals must be performed but the nunnery has no money. A nun, Karma, must journey to find the man who may owe a debt. Filmed in the remote Himalayan region of Mustang, we follow Karma to Katmandu where she discovers that things are not as they seemed.
Mindfulness and Murder (UK Premiere)
Thai-English director Tom Waller takes on one of the popular Father Ananda mystery novels. Former cop Ananda is now a senior monk and is asked by the abbot to solve a murder inside his monastery because the police don’t want to get involved. But not everything in the monastery is as it should be…
My Reincarnation (Official UK Premiere)
Working with over a thousand hours of remarkable footage taken over an unprecedented twenty year span with extraordinary access to Tibetan Buddhist teacher Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, My Reincarnation is the epic story of a father and son, tradition and change, dreams and realities, destiny and desire, and Tibetan Buddhism in the contemporary world. The film follows the renowned reincarnate Tibetan spiritual master as he struggles to save his spiritual tradition, and his Italian born son, Yeshi, who stubbornly refuses to follow in his father’s footsteps…
Shugendo Now (European Premiere)
The school of Japanese asceticism called Shugendo is a blend of Shinto, Daoism and Buddhism. Followers practice arduous rituals in wildernesses and are deeply committed to protecting the natural environment. The film is a poetic and intimate journey into a rarely seen world between the developed and the wild, between the present and the infinite.
SPOTLIGHT ON BURMA
Compelling and fascinating glimpses into the life of the Nobel Laureate, detailing some of the consequences her freedom struggle has had, not only for her, but also for her closest friends and family.
Into the Current
Documents the struggle of prisoners of conscience jailed in Burma, exploring the non-violent movement there and the passion of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, poet Min Ko Naing, comedian Zarganar and women’s leader Nilar Thein.
Locho and Yama are nomadic herders who carve their existence from the land as their ancestors have for generations. But now, as traditional life confronts rapid modernisation, Summer Pasture captures a family at a crossroads, ultimately revealing the profound sacrifice they will make to ensure their baby’s future.
Tulku (European Premiere)
At age three, Gesar Tsewang Arthur Mukpo, son of renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his British wife Diana, was identified as the reincarnation of one of his father’s own teachers. Living in Boulder, Colorado and then Halifax, Nova Scotia, Gesar balanced competing cultures and strikingly different definitions of self.
“We are delighted to be returning to London with a wonderful new selection of world cinema with a Buddhist touch,” said Gaetano Kazuo Maida, Executive Director of IBFF. “Drawing on themes from karma, self and happiness to redemption, compassion, community and creativity – often treated with humour – there is something here for everyone, regardless of how much they already know about Buddhism. We’ll also be bringing together renowned guest speakers, filmmakers and audiences to talk about the diversity of Buddhist cultures and experiences across the globe,” he added.
Presented by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation, the IBFF is being held in conjunction with the Buddhist Art Forum at the Courtauld Institute of Art at Somerset House, offering Londoners a feast of Buddhist cultural delights across cinema and art.
Vaskar S. Kayastha is Cult Hub’s contributing film writer focusing on blockbuster movies as well as independent and world cinema. Vaskar graduated with a BA (Hons) in English which focused on the Classics, Medieval, Shakespearean and Ancient Literature. He also has a keen interest in Photography, History, Technology, Theology, Poetry, Ballet, Art, riding his Vespa and eating Gelato. Vaskar is also the Creative Director for TheStyleColumn - a portal for showcasing talented new fashion designers as well as covering global fashion weeks. Find out more about Vaskar on his blog or follow him on twitter.