The International Buddhist Film Festival July 26 – Aug 1

An image from Samsara, one of the films screening with the International Buddhist Film Festival. Image courtesy VIFF.

An image from Samsara, one of the films screening with the International Buddhist Film Festival. Image courtesy VIFF.

Richard Gere and Johnny Depp are about the only recognizable names in the International Buddhist Film Festival. But don’t let that stop you from checking out the fascinating selection of entertaining and spiritual movies and documentaries that will be screened at Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St.) July 26 – Aug 1.

Among the more intriguing selections is Mindfulness and Murder (Thailand, 2011), a murder mystery set in a monastery. It’s based on one of the novels in the Father Ananda series – Ananda being a homicide investigator-turned-monk.

In Karma (Nepal, 2006), a young nun journeys to Katmandu to collect on a debt owed her nunnery so she and her sisters can properly bury a revered abbess. In Un Buda (Argentina, 2005), two brothers confront their differences in a rural Zen centre.

Documentaries include Crazy Wisdom, about Chogyam Trungpa, a renowned Tibetan Buddhist leader. Trungpa has been a source of controversy in Buddhist circles for 20 years, since he renounced his monk’s vows and eloped with a 16-year-old aristocrat.

American actor Richard Gere narrates The Buddha (USA, 2010). The doc uses animation and contemporary voices including poets Jane Hirshfield and U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin, and Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman to explore the life and meaning of the spiritual leader who became “awake,” and who continues to inspire the diverse Buddhist traditions all over the world.

One of the highlights of the festival is sure to be the visually stunning Samsara (a Sanskrit word meaning “the ever turning wheel of life”) has been described as “audiovisual poetry.” It was filmed over five years in 25 countries on five continents, and “transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders,” according to the Vancity Theatre website.

Kanzeon (UK/Japan 2011) is also formally daring. It uses a variety of cinematic techniques in a journey through sound, song, story, ritual, performance, nature, tradition and Japanese Buddhism.

And then there’s Johnny Depp. His latest film The Lone Ranger may have taken a critical drubbing (it has a 27% approval rating on, but earlier in his career Depp was acclaimed for his portrayal of a man on date with destiny in Dead Man (USA, 1995). This “hallucinatory frontier odyssey” (Dennis Lim, LA Times) is regarded as one of cult director Jim Jarmusch’s best films.

For ticket and screening info go here.


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