Category Archives: Films

IFFI features a lesser-known chapter of Buddhist history

CINEMATIC TIMELINE: A visitor looks at posters at the multimedia exhibition in the 47 th edition of the International Film Festival of India in Panaji on Monday. — Photo: Atish Pomburfekar

CINEMATIC TIMELINE: A visitor looks at posters at the multimedia exhibition in the 47 th edition of the International Film Festival of India in Panaji on Monday. — Photo: Atish Pomburfekar

The Hindu, Prakash Kamat PANAJI: NOVEMBER 24, 2016 01:16 IST

Sinhala film screened at IFFI explores the preserving of heritage for the future

The Sri Lankan film industry is small and so are the budgets due to the small viewership, said Chathra Weeraman, director of the Sinhala film Aloko Udapadi (Light Arose), on Tuesday while interacting with the media at the 47th International Film festival of India (IFFI).

The director said his film on Buddhism was being dubbed in several languages as there are 41 countries where Buddhism is practised and the crew felt committed to deliver this significant yet lesser-known chapter of Buddhist history to them in their native language.

He said the film, his first, was completed under a budget of Rs.6 crore.

Responding to a question, Mr. Weeraman said that there were no collaborations planned for now, but as Buddhism in Sri Lanka’s history is connected to India, there could be co-productions on the same topic in the future.

Kogalla Nishantha, executive producer, said the the film will be released on January 20 in a number of languages. The film depicts a major milestone in the Buddhist timeline.

It is the story of human effort to preserve the spiritual heritage of Buddhisim for future generations of mankind, said Mr. Weeraman about the film, which was screened as part of the World Cinema on Monday evening.

Set against the background of events that took place 2,100 years ago and 454 years after the demise of Lord Buddha, the film is based on the facts found in Mahavansha, the chronicle considered to be the documented history of Sri Lanka. It also documents rock inscriptions across Sri Lanka and folklore about King Walagambha who, the director said, had not got due recognition in history.

Film-makers from the Republic of Korea and their 60-member-strong delegation, which also includes businesspersons, are keen on increasing co-productions with India and also to encourage improved relations between both countries. Continue reading

Makara – Short Fantasy Film Inspired by Buddhist Myth Launched on Kickstarter!

Press Release

PITTSBURGH, PA – Makara the River Dragon is a short film loosely based on a Buddhist myth from the Himalayas. The film tells the story of a young monk who tries to help a suffering stranger by entering his mind and destroying his inner demons. Throughout the ritual experience, both the monk and the stranger have revelations about themselves. While the story is firmly grounded in reality, supernatural and mysterious elements are present enough to push the boundaries of what reality is and what our role in it can be. The film also helps explain some Buddhist concepts that can be difficult for most people to grasp. The Kickstarter project only has a few days to complete its goal of $1300.

In the Himalayas, various traditions perform rituals to remove spirits that could cause negativity in the mind. These traditions are immensely descriptive in regards to these evil spirits. They are said to be pale with “mouths the size of a needle’s eye and a stomach the size of a mountain”, causing them to be known as hungry spirits, as they constantly consume without being satisfied. Hungry spirits are a metaphor for people who pointlessly try to fulfill materialistic desires. The demons in the film are planned to share this hungry look, with a gaping, watery mouth filled with numerous sharp teeth.

The film takes its diverse cultural inspiration from Qinghai, China, a historical melting pot for Chinese, Mongolians, Tibetans and Salars. It will be mainly shot in the Appalachians mountains of Western Pennsylvania and will showcase some of the most extraordinary rock formations of the state. In addition to the beautiful natural environment, a temple set is being built with casts of authentic Qing Dynasty (1644-1900) titles for the roof. This structure is planned to be modeled after the traditional Kham style of architecture. These traditional techniques are greatly threatened by concrete and cheaper building practices, so there are few remaining masters of the craft.

The film’s story has its roots in various Buddhist literature including the story of the demon Mara. Of the numerous supernatural creatures inhabit Buddhist mythology, Mara stands out. One of the first non-human entities to appear in Buddhist scriptures, this demon is featured in many stories surrounding the Buddha and his early followers. It is widely told that Mara as led a great battle against the Buddha during his quest for enlightenment. After trying to seduce the Buddha with his daughters, Mara had his army of demons try to prevent the Buddha from finding peace. Despite their efforts, the demons could not break his concentration and vanished. This is symbolic of overcoming the inner struggle against negativity, distractions and the desires that deceive us. “The Buddha once said, ‘…all that we are arises with our thoughts,’ however, too many of us are plagued with negative thoughts and inner demons on a daily basis,” said Ray Bishop, director of Makara the River Dragon. “Wouldn’t it be great if someone could go inside your mind and destroy them.”

You can check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

Media Contact
Company Name: Makara the River Dragon
Contact Person: Ray B.
Country: United States

Crossing mountains to go to school

ST_20160831_LIFZAN_2559731The Straits Times

DAUG 31, 2016, 5:00 AM SGT
John Lui, Film Correspondent

This year’s Thus Have I Seen Buddhist Film Festival includes a suspenseful documentary about two monks leading a group of 17 children over treacherous terrain so they can go to school.

The children live in the impoverished Zanskar region of northern India. They are Buddhist and culturally and ethnically Tibetan, but in that part of Kashmir, the only school that gives them a chance to rise out of poverty and which caters to their Tibetan heritage, is in a town on the other side of a mountain range.

One of the monks who escorted the children is Geshe Lobsang Yonten, 52.

“Families with a little money can send their children to good Tibetan schools in India. I decided to take children from poor families to these schools,” he tells The Straits Times.

His mission, blessed by the Dalai Lama and funded by donations, was captured on film by director Frederick Marx, who produced and co-wrote the Oscar-nominated documentary Hoop Dreams (1994), which follows African-American families who have pinned their hopes for a better future on their sons’ talent for basketball.

Journey From Zanskar (PG13, 90 minutes) is also about one generation making sacrifices so that the next one can rise.

The film opens with Geshe Yonten, with another monk Lobsang Dhamchoe, walking about the Zanskari farms, persuading families to send their offspring to a faraway school. It is a heartrending choice as the poverty, high peaks and military strife in the region mean a long separation.

“It was a difficult decision. They would not be able to see each other for eight to 10 years,” says Geshe Yonten, himself born in Zanskar and educated elsewhere in India. He is now in Singapore, teaching at the Tibetan Buddhist Centre. Continue reading

Film Review: ‘Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait’

Jay Weissberg

AUGUST 30, 2016 | 11:34AM PT
A group of people don masks and come together in the woods for fifteen days of liberating and transgressive anonymity in this Buddhist-themed, intriguing Bhutanese drama.

The exoticism of Bhutan and the spiritual philosophy of Buddhism combine with an eerie invented ritual by which masked anonymity allows participants to inhabit a limbo world of all present and no past or future in lama/director Khyentse Norbu’s visually rich though narratively challenging “Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait.” How successful the film is in folding Buddhist ideas into an imaginative reflection on the liberating yet unstable notion of collective identity concealment depends entirely on the viewer’s awareness of certain Eastern spiritual concepts, and uninitiated audiences looking for foreign color will experience a hefty degree of head-scratching among the intermittent pleasures. While never less than intriguing, “Hema Hema,” like Norbu’s previous “Vara: A Blessing,” is unlikely to break out of the festival circuit.

Since working as technical advisor on “Little Buddha,” Norbu has grown into a fully-fledged director (this is his fifth feature), with international visibility assisted by his association with Jeremy Thomas, once again acting as executive producer notwithstanding the majority Bhutanese production. Seeking to incorporate contemporary society’s mores with Buddhist beliefs, his films play with ideas of transgression and reinvention, informed by the spiritual philosophy of inhabiting intermediary spaces poised between death and rebirth. Familiarity with such concepts certainly help to greater appreciate the underlying notion behind “Hema Hema,” which is mostly set in a commune-like forest clearing where participants don masks and revel in the collective freedom of effaced identities.

A man, credited as “Expressionless” (Tshering Dorji) makes his way to a secret forest where, every twelve years, people are gathered by the elderly Agay (Thinley Dorji) for 15 days of anonymity. Amidst revelry and dances, this masked rag-tag community is strictly enjoined from removing their masks; they shed their past and are without names, exulting in the freedom of being unknown.

One need only think of Carnival practices to realize that such a concept isn’t entirely foreign to Western society — putting on a mask in public allows for barriers to be dropped and instinct to reign. But such freedom comes at a cost, and human foibles can fester as lust and jealousy build in the heated atmosphere. Expressionless develops a powerful desire for “Red Wrathful” (Sadon Lhamo), and he breaks the rules of both the commune and society. Continue reading

Monk with A Camera

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

It’s rare that a Western man of means would leave behind a pampered life to become a Buddhist monk in India. “Monk with a Camera” chronicles the adult life of Nicholas “Nicky” Vreeland, who, like Siddhartha (Buddha), renounces a life of material pleasures to pursue deeper meaning through spiritual seeking.

This film doesn’t have any bells and whistles in terms of production value and at times feels so basic that a second- or third- year film student could have been behind the camera. However, the editing and Vreeland’s narration are done with a respect and understanding of his work and ideals – something that a young hired hand could not likely contribute to a passion project.

Vreeland struggles with his “addiction” to photography. For any artist this is an interesting concept, as the pursuit of new creations can fuel the ego, and for some, becomes an obsession. There are many musings on the philosophy of non-attachment and one of the most interesting was Vreeland’s decision to shave his head and how one’s hairstyle is so intertwined with self-image. I was reminded of “The Matrix,” when Neo regains his hair for the first time after being unplugged from the matrix. Morpheus shows him the “Construct” training program and explains that Neo’s physical appearance is “residual self-image.”

Sadly, the film may not captivate you unless you’re a student of Buddhism, fine art photography, or both. If you have reverence for the subject matter, you’ll find little gifts within that make the documentary worthwhile.

– Bayard Lewis

Bayard Lewis is a professional wedding and documentary videographer based in Bozeman. He completed his Photography and Film degree at Montana State University in 2009. He may be reached at


Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s Fourth Film Debuts in Switzerland

 Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From

Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From
Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From

By Craig Lewis Buddhistdoor Global | 2016-08-18 |

Described by the trade website Screen Daily as “colorful, exotic, and mysterious,” the fourth cinematic outing by Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and writer Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche made its world premiere in Switzerland earlier this month. Titled Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait, the film debuted at the Locarno Film Festival (3–13 August) to a positive reception.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has previously directed three major feature films: Vara: A Blessing (2013), Travellers and Magicians (2003), and The Cup (1999). He is also the author of the books Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices (Shambhala, 2012) and What Makes You Not a Buddhist (Shambhala, 2007).

Continue reading

‘Kubo and the Two Strings’

Filmmaker Travis Knight talks about the Buddhist elements in the just released animated movie, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’:

“Q: There’s a strain of Buddhism throughout the film — this idea that lives don’t end with death and live on in memories. Apart from it being set in Ancient Japan, where did that come from?
Knight: My mother-in-law and her family are Buddhists. That kind of spirituality is not something you typically see in film. I think it spoke to the basic idea about losing something that matters to you, which is a fundamental part of life. You don’t get through life unscathed. Being able to explore those ideas through the prism of fantasy and animation really allows parents and children to experience those things together, in a way they can understand. Sometimes these ideas are difficult to articulate, but in a film, if done in a poetic way, those things can make sense and you can talk about them.”




LucasfilmPoster_webAUGUST 1, 2016
You are invited to a special screening of The Great Transmission at Lucasfilm’s Premier Theater in San Francisco on Friday, August 26th, 2016!

Doors open at 6:30 pm. Film screens at 7:00 pm, followed by Q & A with the Director.

No food is allowed in the theater, but there is a restaurant called Sessions on the Lucasfilm campus. We recommend making an evening of it!

RSVP’s are required.

For event details and reservations, please visit our Eventbrite page:

Donations are greatly appreciated.

We accept online donations through Paypal:

Friday Movie and Potluck Rent Party at Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute, Tucson AZ

Friday Movie and Potluck Rent Party!
Destroyer of Illusion
Friday, August 19th, 6-8:30 pm
Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute, 3400 E Speedway, Suite 204, Tucson AZ
(Located just east of Whole Foods in the Rancho Center)

We are delighted to share another Buddhist movie and potluck dinner. Destroyer of Illusions is a true jewel – filmed on location in the Solu-Khumby Everest region of Nepal. Richard Gere narrates with the clarity and depth of an insider, but he or any outsider is not a physical presence in this documentary. It is entirely the ritual that is filmed – from the beginning set-up to the actual ritual dance. This secret Mani Rimdu ritual is presided over by Trulshik Rinpoche, who leads and preserves this ancient tradition. This is as real as it gets and it’s awesome. The ritual dance and the dancers perform Padmasambhava (Lord of the Dance) converting the demons into the Dharmapalas, explained by Richard Gere as it happens. This is something very different and precious from what you normally see.

Please bring a friend and some food to share. While there is no charge for attendance, we do appreciate donations of however much you can contribute toward our monthly rent for this beautiful space. Thank you for your generosity and consideration.


By Kaewta Ketbungkan, Staff Reporter – July 7, 2016 3:59 pm

BANGKOK — Having captured the everyday lives of Thais through his three previous films, director Boonsong Nakphoo is releasing his latest effort “The Wandering” Thursday to explore the real essence of Buddhism, reflecting the tranquil journey of a man who decided later in life to become a monk, something rarely seen in films nowadays.

With six new films coming to theatres this week, “The Wandering” is the only Thai film that dares to open against Spielberg’s “The BFG” and Blake Lively struggling to survive a shark attack in “The Shallows.”

“As I had ordained for ten years, I’ve been wanting to make a movie about Buddhism,” said Boonsong. “I waited for the right time to become more mature and proficient in filmmaking. This is the right time to tell the story as society decays morally and most monk movies are slapstick comedies, dark, or presented in a styleless manner.”

After graduating with a degree in Dramatic Arts from Chulalongkorn University, Boonsong began his film career in 1996 by establishing Plapen Wai Thuan Nam film studio. In 2003, the director started making films with big studios before returning to become an independent filmmaker in 2010. Continue reading