Category Archives: Films

Carving the Divine: Buddhist Sculptors of Japan

 

 

 

 

 

Carving the Divine: Buddhist Sculptors of Japan is a documentary by filmmaker Yujiro Seki, about modern day sculptors of Buddhist art. The filmmaker seeks funds to send his film to the Sundance Film Festival.

Link to Indiegogo page, with much more information.

“Living among these Būshi for the years necessary to document them transforming blocks of wood into incredible sculptures, I was not only able to gain access into the secretive world of some of Japan’s foremost masters. Nor was I simply able to capture a world of Buddhist rituals normally off-limits to all but monks and priests. My proudest achievement in Carving the Divine is that I believe the finished film does a good job of showing how these two traditions – Mahayana Buddhism and the art of the Būshi – both sculpt and are sculpted by Japan itself, and how the struggles of today’s Būshi reflect the historical struggles of the Japanese People – to “persevere,” as we Japanese so often say.”

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When India Made Its First Major Animation Movie With a Little Help From a Disney Expert

from The Better India, Sohini Dey April 18, 2017

Cartoons may have been traditionally meant for children, but the global success of animated movies show that their audience is diverse and not limited only to children. Today, Indian animators are highly prized in the global film industry, lending their expertise to movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek and even live-action movies like Life of Pi and Maleficent. But not many know that the country’s first tryst with animated movies goes back to the early decades of the 20th century.

India witnessed the release of its first animated movie in colour titled The Banyan Deer in the year 1957.

Though the movie is often hailed as the country’s very first animated movie, it’s only partly true. Hand-drawn, black and white movies had been made using elementary animation techniques in the earlier decades, such as The Pea Brothers by Gunamoy Banerjee and Jambu Kaka by Raghunath K Kelkar both released in 1934, Superman’s Myth (1939) by renowned animator and filmmaker GK Gokhale and Jumbo the Fox (1951) by Ranjit Movietone.

The Banyan Deer was the first major initiative undertaken by the Films Division of India to produce a full-fledged animated movie in colour format. FDI was established in 1948 to capture the stories of India on celluloid; less than a decade later, it began setting up its Cartoon Film Unit. Animation was considered a great medium to instruct children, and according to Year of Freedom: Vol 11, the unit was “set up to produce short films for children, instructional and educational films and films involving animation sequences.”

In setting up a quality cartoon unit, the Films Division hoped to present animated movies that would match up to international standards. The organisation sought the help of Clair Weeks, a Disney animator with deep ties to India. Clair was born in India in a missionary priest’s family, and went on to work for close to two decades on iconic Disney movies like Bambi and Peter Pan.

Clair arrived in Bombay, as Mumbai was then known, in 1956 on invitation from FDI to train those employed in the cartoon unit. He stayed on for close to 18 months, training the team that worked together to produce what is today acknowledged as India’s first serious foray in world-class, colour animation.

Produced in Eastman Color, The Banyan Deer was based on a popular tale from the Buddhist Jatakas.


The Jatakas are ancient tales, narrated to present the teachings of Gautam Buddha in a simplified manner. It is believed that the Buddha himself narrated these teachings to his disciples who, in turn, narrated them to the common people they encountered on their travels.

In this particular story, the banyan deer is a golden deer and the leader of his herd who steps into the execution altar to save a mother deer from being sacrificed for a human king who loves to hunt. His compassion pleases the king, who not only lets the banyan deer go, but also spares the lives of all the deer.

The FDI chose this particular story of the movie, perhaps in keeping with the moral values inherent in the story. Besides, Buddhism was after all rooted in India and the country boasted a long-standing legacy of exquisite art and heritage, which offered a wealth of inspiration for the team. Continue reading

This Korean documentary on Gandhara civilisation will show the ‘tolerant face’ of Pakistan

Dawn, AMJAD IQBAL

A Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) team has filmed Buddhist sites in Taxila, Lahore, Peshawar, Swat, Swabi and Gilgit

A two-member Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) team filmed various Buddhist sites of Gandhara civilization, which they will air on South Korean official television .

Lee Heon and Miss Hong, Eun Hee, producers of the KBS, are visiting the ancient sites on the invitation of Dr Esther Park, General Secretary, Gandhara Art and Culture Association (GACA).

Before coming to Taxila the KBS team also visited Lahore, Peshawar, Swabi, Swat and Gilgit and filmed various Buddhist sites.

“I have visited Sri Lanka, Thailand, China and Armenia to record various cultural sites but the potential and cultural diversity Pakistan harbours is unique and significant,” said Miss Hong while talking to Dawn.

“What has really captured me about Pakistan is the kindness of the people here; really they are generous and hospitable,” she added.

Replying to a query, she said it was her first visit to Pakistan and like other foreign media persons she had some misconception about Pakistan but after visiting various cities, she found it an enlightened and diverse country. “Through her documentary she will now show peaceful, tolerant and hospitable face of Pakistan to the world especially to Buddhists across the globe,” she added.

Monk Maranantha, credited for spreading Buddhist teachings across the Korean peninsula in the late 4th century AD, was originally from Chota Lahore in district Swabi, therefore Buddhist followers of Korea have deep-rooted spiritual and religious attachment with Pakistan and this documentary would further strengthen relations between the two countries. Continue reading

Buddhist leader’s ‘message of hope’ premiered at Scots monastery

The Scotsman, Thursday 16 March 2017

A film charting the life and times of the co-founder of Europe’s first Buddhist monastery yesterday received its world premiere.

The feature-length documentary about Akong Tulku Rinpoche was screened at Kagyu Samye Ling, the Tibetan centre in south-west Scotland he helped established some 60 years ago.

The film, ‘Akong – A Remarkable Life’ charts the former Buddhist leader’s early years in Tibet through to his murder in China in 2013.

Described by its makers as a “message of hope,” the documentary was authorised by Akong Rinpoche before he was stabbed to death. Akong, who was born in 1939, was identified as the reincarnation of Dolma Lhakang, at a monastery in eastern Tibet. He was just four when he was enthroned in the monastery and began his spiritual education.

After the Tibetan uprising against occupying Chinese forces in 1959, the then 19-year-old joined a freedom walk over the Himalayas to India. The gruelling trek saw the party run out of food, with many forced to boil leather shoes and bags to make soup. Out of about 200 people who took part in the walk, Akong was among just 15 survivors.

He eventually made his way to Scotland, where along with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, he founded Samye Ling in Langholm, 30 miles east of Dumfries. Students at the monastery, constructed around a former hunting lodge, have included the late musicians David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.

Vin Harris, executive producer of the film, which features contributions from the likes of Lord Steele, said: “We feel that the film is more a message of hope, a celebration of his life.

“It kind of focuses on the fact that putting compassion into action, rather than being a kind of luxury, is so effective.

“We look at what, as a refugee, he achieved – setting up centres all over the world and helping thousands and thousands of people without compromising that value of compassion.” Last year, two men were sentenced to death in China for the murder of Akong as well as his nephew and driver. A third man was sentenced to three years in jail.

[link]

Sit

Here is a short documentary film, SIT, by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Yoko Okumura. You can read more about it on Trike Daily.

In Japanese movie ‘Silence’, Christianity in 17th century Japan gets the Buddhist treatment

51384-ipvndonemw-1487018501The 1971 version by Masahiro Shinoda successfully integrates the visions of the novelist and film director.

Narrative cinema has the ability to take a descriptive story and translate it into images and sounds that can be enjoyed in themselves. In the case of a literary adaptation, the descriptive power of these images and sounds is related to the degree of elaboration that the author offers in the original novel. A filmmaker chooses a particular novel only if the themes of the novel and the concerns of the author match his/her own cinematographic concerns.

This is most certainly the case with Masahiro Shinoda’s Silence (1971), a precursor to Martin Scorsese version that is being released on February 17. Silence, based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel by the same name, is about the gross violations committed by the Japanese in the 17th century against Christianity. The film centres on a priest, Rodrigues, and his struggles with the local feudal lords (the daimyo) and warrior communities (the samurai), until he is forced to give up his own faith. Rodrigues’s battle is played off against a Japanese Christian, Kichijiro, who voluntary gives up his faith.

Shinoda’s Silence is a successful adaptation primarily because the filmmaker’s concerns are the same as those of the novelist. Endo, a Catholic who suffered persecution in Japan, uses the diaristic form to describe the circumstances that lead to the conditions in which the novel plays out. This is most suited to Shinoda, who believed his cinema to be one of the catalysts in pitting the individual against the community.

The diaristic form points to the act of writing. Shinoda transforms this concern into speech, with Rodrigues speaking out lines from his diary in the lush Japanese countryside. The director often translates Endo’s descriptive passages into spoken dialogue, as if to suggest that cinema is a medium of showing and not telling.

Shinoda’s conception of cinema is one in which the figure is subsumed into the landscape. Much like Endo’s novel, Shinoda’s film is eventually Buddhist in form, as it puts forth a vision in which the elements of nature are to be worshipped. This Zen-like approach makes the concerns of communicating the sufferings of the Christians seem paradoxical, for the film in itself takes a paganistic approach to the content.

For Shinoda, the struggle is not between an individual and his faith but between the individual and nature. Cinema has the ability to transform words into spaces. Shinoda’s approach to space is closer to a documentary. He carefully places the camera at a distance, almost making nature a character with the landscape as its face. This is communicated in a carefully constructed colour scheme. Whereas Christianity is communicated through man-made warm tones such as reds and light browns, the Buddhist elements of nature are communicated in cool greens and blues. This creates a number of interesting juxtapositions. The figure of Christ, represented by Rodrigues, is invariably dressed in an inorganic red and placed in a natural background comprising cool tones.

Shinoda’s cinema often crossed genres, evading easy classification. Silence nestles within the jidai-geki, or the historical drama genre. Jidai-geki uses historical content, with the lead character, invariably the samurai, presenting a vision of contemporary Japanese society. In Silence, the intolerance of the Buddhists is pitted against the fate of Rodrigues, who becomes the opposite of what he seems to preach, thus underlining the hypocrisy of Japanese mores.

The film uses variable techniques and approaches to tell Endo’s story. The documentary style of naturalism is juxtaposed with architectural interiority, and the two create a tension that translates into a cinematic grid, with light serving as its basis. The ending, which contradicts Rodrigues’s ideas on fidelity, is communicated through freeze frames belonging to that most anarchic mode of film-making – the avant-garde or experimental approach.

Although Silence was a successful adaptation on most counts, Shinoda, an atheist, changed the ending of Endo’s text to the author’s chagrin. Shinoda could not engage with Endo’s belief of Christianity as a universal religion. The ending of the book is deeply religious, but Shinoda translates this religiosity in sexual terms.

Silence is a masterpiece for its ability to translate the novel’s concerns at the level of content into cinematographic concerns at the level of form. Most importantly, it is able to integrate the visions of the novelist and film director with the vision of cinema to produce a satisfying cinematic experience that transcends mere storytelling.In Japanese movie ‘Silence’, Christianity in 17th century Japan gets the Buddhist treatment
The 1971 version by Masahiro Shinoda successfully integrates the visions of the novelist and film director.

In Japanese movie ‘Silence’, Christianity in 17th century Japan gets the Buddhist treatment
Feb 15, 2017.
Devdutt Trivedi
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Narrative cinema has the ability to take a descriptive story and translate it into images and sounds that can be enjoyed in themselves. In the case of a literary adaptation, the descriptive power of these images and sounds is related to the degree of elaboration that the author offers in the original novel. A filmmaker chooses a particular novel only if the themes of the novel and the concerns of the author match his/her own cinematographic concerns.

This is most certainly the case with Masahiro Shinoda’s Silence (1971), a precursor to Martin Scorsese version that is being released on February 17. Silence, based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel by the same name, is about the gross violations committed by the Japanese in the 17th century against Christianity. The film centres on a priest, Rodrigues, and his struggles with the local feudal lords (the daimyo) and warrior communities (the samurai), until he is forced to give up his own faith. Rodrigues’s battle is played off against a Japanese Christian, Kichijiro, who voluntary gives up his faith.

Shinoda’s Silence is a successful adaptation primarily because the filmmaker’s concerns are the same as those of the novelist. Endo, a Catholic who suffered persecution in Japan, uses the diaristic form to describe the circumstances that lead to the conditions in which the novel plays out. This is most suited to Shinoda, who believed his cinema to be one of the catalysts in pitting the individual against the community.

The diaristic form points to the act of writing. Shinoda transforms this concern into speech, with Rodrigues speaking out lines from his diary in the lush Japanese countryside. The director often translates Endo’s descriptive passages into spoken dialogue, as if to suggest that cinema is a medium of showing and not telling.

Play
Silence (1971).
Shinoda’s conception of cinema is one in which the figure is subsumed into the landscape. Much like Endo’s novel, Shinoda’s film is eventually Buddhist in form, as it puts forth a vision in which the elements of nature are to be worshipped. This Zen-like approach makes the concerns of communicating the sufferings of the Christians seem paradoxical, for the film in itself takes a paganistic approach to the content.

For Shinoda, the struggle is not between an individual and his faith but between the individual and nature. Cinema has the ability to transform words into spaces. Shinoda’s approach to space is closer to a documentary. He carefully places the camera at a distance, almost making nature a character with the landscape as its face. This is communicated in a carefully constructed colour scheme. Whereas Christianity is communicated through man-made warm tones such as reds and light browns, the Buddhist elements of nature are communicated in cool greens and blues. This creates a number of interesting juxtapositions. The figure of Christ, represented by Rodrigues, is invariably dressed in an inorganic red and placed in a natural background comprising cool tones.

Shinoda’s cinema often crossed genres, evading easy classification. Silence nestles within the jidai-geki, or the historical drama genre. Jidai-geki uses historical content, with the lead character, invariably the samurai, presenting a vision of contemporary Japanese society. In Silence, the intolerance of the Buddhists is pitted against the fate of Rodrigues, who becomes the opposite of what he seems to preach, thus underlining the hypocrisy of Japanese mores.

The film uses variable techniques and approaches to tell Endo’s story. The documentary style of naturalism is juxtaposed with architectural interiority, and the two create a tension that translates into a cinematic grid, with light serving as its basis. The ending, which contradicts Rodrigues’s ideas on fidelity, is communicated through freeze frames belonging to that most anarchic mode of film-making – the avant-garde or experimental approach.

Although Silence was a successful adaptation on most counts, Shinoda, an atheist, changed the ending of Endo’s text to the author’s chagrin. Shinoda could not engage with Endo’s belief of Christianity as a universal religion. The ending of the book is deeply religious, but Shinoda translates this religiosity in sexual terms.

Silence is a masterpiece for its ability to translate the novel’s concerns at the level of content into cinematographic concerns at the level of form. Most importantly, it is able to integrate the visions of the novelist and film director with the vision of cinema to produce a satisfying cinematic experience that transcends mere storytelling.

[link]

Buddhist Movie ‘Becoming Who I Was’ Picked Up by Bond/360

becoming-who-i-wasVariety
Leo Barraclough
Senior International Correspondent
@LeoBarraclough

FEBRUARY 16, 2017 | 07:05AM PT
Marc Schiller’s Bond/360, whose team were behind breakthrough films like “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Senna” and “The Imposter,” has acquired the exclusive U.S. and Canadian rights to Chang-Yong Moon’s Buddhist documentary film “Becoming Who I Was.”

The distributor, whose recent releases include “An Art that Nature Makes,” “Notes on Blindness” and “Strike a Pose,” will premiere the pic in New York City in the fall, followed by a nationwide release on Bond’s new Karma Cinema label, followed by a digital, educational and DVD release later in the year.

“The film follows Padma Angdu, who is no ordinary boy,” according to a statement. “In a past life he was a venerated Buddhist master. His village already treats him like a saint as a result. The village doctor, who has taken the boy under his wing, prepares him to be able to pass on his wisdom.”

Tibet, Angdu’s former homeland and the center of his faith, lies far away from his current home in the highlands of Northern India. On top of that, the conflict between China and Tibet makes the prospect of a trip there even more daunting.

“Undeterred by these harsh facts, the duo set off for their destination on foot, accompanied by questions of friendship and the nature of life.”

The documentary film, which was shot over a period of eight years, is “ultimately a story of unconditional love between a young boy and his guardian.” Continue reading