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I finally got to see Samsara. Great movie about a Ladhaki monk who feels he should experience life before renouncing it forever. This is a serious movie about a serious subject (i.e. lust is what initially motivates the monk), not a heartwarming story like The Cup.

The only version available now is a 2-disk Hong Kong set, available at www.yesasia.com. It looks to me like it was encoded in two 70-minute sections for VCD and then copied as-is to DVD to save money. So, unfortunately, the stunning photography is sometimes not as good as it should be due to a rather "over-sharpened" look. Most of the time you won't notice, though. All in all, well acted and directed, with a strong ending. It stars multilingual Canadian actress, Christy Chung.

Bizarrely, there is/was a Thai version of this called "Sam Sara," presumably to make a connection with Jan Dara, which also starred Chung. I would think some of the "inappropriate" bits would have been cut from the Thai version, though.

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Little Buddha I have some personal interest in this one. One of my first teachers was a consultant for the Tibetan Buddhist authenticity. His wisdom was completely jettisoned in favour of pandering t

You can watch here on

Documentary about Bikkhuni in Thailand.

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The 4-hour 1979 documentary on Tibetan Buddhism - Tibet - a Buddhist Trilogy has been released in a 134-minute version on DVD, available from Amazon UK. There are some pretty good reviews and some not so good.

Sounds like the first part (with narration) about the Dalai Lama is pretty good, but the other two parts are Buddhist ceremonies with subtitles but no narration.

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Travellers and Magicians - this one by the director of The Cup is a keeper. Great cast, great story and great photography. A young graduate wants to leave village life in Bhutan and work in his dreamland, America. The journey doesn't go well right from the start. On the way he meets a monk who tells him a tale about a dreamland. The tale is pretty spooky, and it contrasts well with the parallel story of the young graduate.

This lama-director-writer is really talented. I hope he makes another movie. The cast are all non-actors but seem to be naturals. It's almost as if the director told them the plot and then said, "Just be yourselves." The two female stars are both beautiful, but in different ways - one innocent, one experienced.

T&M is a more Buddhist movie than The Cup, mainly because the monk acts as a narrator and commentator on the situation of the young man. I enjoyed this a lot more than Samsara and the DVD transfer was better. 490 baht for the R3 version from cdwow.com.

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A weekend to change your life

By TONY EVANS, Idaho Mountain Express, Sept 6, 2006

Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival founders ponder event

Sun Valley, Idaho (USA) -- Mary Gervase and Claudio Ruben go back a long way."Perhaps many lifetimes," Ruben said with a chuckle during a short break from the hectic job of organizing the second annual Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival. Having viewed 140 films in preparation for this year's festival, films that explore a broad selection of the world's spiritual traditions, perhaps anything seems possible.

Gervase is a teacher, counselor and administrator, serving as the assistant superintendent of Blaine County Schools. She met Claudio Ruben in 1993 in Santa Fe, where Ruben was working as a ski instructor. Originally from Milan, Italy, Ruben continues to live and work in Santa Fe, coordinating production for TV commercials and serving as assistant director for the Thubten Norbu Ling Buddhist Center. With shared interests centering around film making and spirituality (Gervase is a student of Aikido) these two friends networked for years in the hope of putting together a multi-faceted film festival, one that would celebrate the world's spiritual traditions and cherish the human spirit. In 2005 the perfect opportunity presented itself in the Wood River Valley.

"Mary called me in Santa Fe and said, 'The Dalai Lama is coming to town. I think this might be the right time and place,'" Ruben reca;;ed. "I already had a business plan and some films in mind."

Gervase wrote a letter to Kiril Sokoloff, the sponsor of the Dalai Lama's visit, suggesting that he involve Blaine County school children in the visit, and "would he mind if we were to screen some films while His Holiness was in town?"

Sokoloff agreed, and The Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival was born under most auspicious circumstances. This year, Sokoloff made a generous contribution of his own to the festival organization to help insure its continuation.

"The funds will go to support theater rentals, speaker expenses, printing costs and other expenses," said Gervase. "This was a real vote of confidence."

"We previewed about 25 films for the first festival," said Ruben. "Some we were familiar with, others we found on the Web. Others fell into our hands magically."

"Vajra Sky Over Tibet" was one of the magical events of that year, a special preview screening of John Bush's remarkable tour of the remaining holy sites in Tibet. It was the first documentary ever officially sanctioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The screening of "Vajra Sky" along with the current line up of remarkable speakers and screenings for 2006 may help to establish the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival in years to come as a convergence point for leading thinkers, writers and filmmakers dealing with themes of spirituality in the media. Gervase and Ruben know it won't happen all at once.

"We rode on the coat tails of the Dalai Lama the first year," says Ruben. "This year we are on our own."

The fascinating program Gervase and Ruben have put together for this year's festival shows that they may have what it takes to pull it off. Even while holding down full-time jobs, they have managed to organize a stimulating program of speakers, spiritual cinema, and juried awards, which provide a topical survey of the sacred and the mystical from around the world.

"We see The Spiritual Film Festival is an opportunity to be exposed to various spiritual traditions around the globe and to learn to appreciate them," said Ruben, who was recently struck by the similarities within his own Tibetan Buddhist practice and those of the fundamentalist Pentecostals, which he learned about while previewing a documentary.

"Underneath the labels, we are all human beings."

Among the film festivals from which Gervase and Ruben watch for ideas are: Parabola Magazine's Cinema of the Spirit; The International Buddhist Film Festival; God on Film, from New York City; and The World Spiritual Film Festival, from Goa, India.

"There are others, which focus on particular traditions," said Ruben. "Jewish festivals, LDS festivals, Christian festivals. Our own criteria are based on bringing as much diversity as possible. We also refuse to screen anything that denigrates a particular tradition. And then there are the elements of quality filmmaking we look for, like production values, cinematography, good story-telling."

Gervase added: "We are putting together a patch-work quilt. We hope that the festival comes together as a full experience, and as a gift to the community."

With speakers like Dr. Nathan Katz, the founder of The Center for the Study of Spirituality at Florida International University, and other noted authors and filmmakers, the festival should shed light on what the word "spirituality" means in today's society.

"Katz's story is amazing," said Ruben. "He came full circle from Judaism, to being a practicing Sufi Dervish, to a Tibetan Buddhist yogi, and then back to his own Jewish tradition."

Katz will speak on "Globalization and Spirituality" at the film festival.

Another film, which Ruben and Gervase have high regard for, is "Mind Games." It follows Dr. Tim French as he succumbs to Lou Gherig's disease.

"This is a story about the resilience of the human spirit," said Gervase. "The love affair between French and his wife challenges our traditional views about relationships."

"You don't walk away from this kind of movie complaining about the camera angles," said Ruben "You walk away saying, 'How can I change my life?'"

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two more movies:

ANGRY MONK

This historical documentary tells the story of Gendun Choephel, a legendary

figure in Tibet, who turned from the monastic life he was born to (as the

reincarnation of a Buddhist lama), to become a fierce critic of his

country's religious conservatism and isolationism.

http://www.frif.com/new2006/angr.html FULL SYNOPSIS

WANDERING SOULS

Thirty years after the end of the war against the United States, two

Vietnamese veterans continue to search for the remains of their dead

comrades and, in Buddhist tradition, bring their spirits "back home."

http://www.frif.com/new2006/wan.html FULL SYNOPSIS

Bankei

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Werner Herzog's documentary Wheel of Time looks interesting:

Wheel of Time

Wheel of Time, Werner Herzog’s Tibetan Buddhism documentary, opened in the United States in New York City on June 15 for a one-week run, and while in its form as “observer” the film neglects to examine the “whys” of Buddhist life, it is magnificent to watch and can touch very deeply.

Filmed in Bodh Gaya and Graz (Austria) during the 2002 Kalachakra initiations (the 12-day process in which Tibetan Buddhist monks are ordained), and including spectacular footage of and around western Tibet’s Mt. Kailash, the 80-minute film features insightful -- and typically charming -- clips from the German filmmaker’s interview with His Holiness Dalai Lama.

But the film’s real “star” is the metaphor for the impermanence of life, in the form of the giant (seven foot diameter), meticulously created Kalachakra sand mandala, representing the wheel of time, that is traditionally created (and ultimately destroyed) for the initiation.

The mandala itself is extraordinary. It includes representation of 722 deities, symbolizing various aspects of consciousness and reality, all part of the ultimate wisdom of the Kalachakra deity. Dedicated to peace and physical balance, both for individuals and for the world, the mandala is painstakingly constructed of grains of colored sand, and, once created, is so intricately fragile that it must be encased in glass to protect it from even a human breath, which can destroy it.

Sand, traditionally made from crushed precious stones, is used in the mandala’s creation due to the precious substances involved and the great skill required to create a mandala’s exquisite details. Since each grain of sand is charged with the blessings of the ritual process, the entire sand mandala embodies a vast store of spiritual energy.

At the initiations’ conclusion, the mandala is destroyed by sweeps of His Holiness’ hand, and the sand is dispersed in the nearby river, from which it will ultimately enter the sea and spread blessings to the world.

There are many moments from Wheel of Time that will stay with viewers for a very long time, including an interview with a monk who traveled more than 3,000 miles to Bodh Gaya, doing body-length prostrations along the entire way, His Holiness’ playful description of the center of the universe, the various overviews and close-ups of the 500,000 pilgrims who traveled to Bodh Gaya for the event and the combination of grand scale beauty and physical hardships endured by those pilgrims who travel to and then circumambulate Mt. Kailash.

There are also scenes in which an explanation of the rituals and behaviors, and the fervor and devotion that accompany them, would be helpful, but Herzog, who also self-narrates the film, directs Wheel of Time as a witness, allowing the breathtaking visuals to speak for themselves. And for those with even a little knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism, and the motivations of its practitioners, they do. Nevertheless, an opportunity to both engage and teach in the context of this powerful film has been only partly realized.

Source: The Times of Tibet.

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Wheel of Time looks intriguing, esp with Werner Herzog directing. I just searched for it on Amazon and found the Amazon user reviews themselves interesting.

I first read about Mount Kailash in one of Lama Govinda's books. Pilgrims at the time (1930s) would put water from its sacred lakes into bottles and take it home with them. Not long after I read the book, I happened to flip open the Lonely Planet Guide to Tibet and read this: "Don't be surprised if you see Western backpackers flinging themselves naked into the lakes." :o

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I'm picking a copy of Act Normal up from the director in Bangkok next week. Also just received a copy of Bae Yong-kyun's Why Did Bodhidharma Go East? but haven't had a chance to watch it yet.

Hi Sabaijai

How did you like "Act Normal"?

Bankei

I haven't picked it up yet, my trip to BKK was put forward ... will post a quick review after I've seen it.

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My number once choice? Angulimala. I don't know how accurate it is but it is not boring.

Not a bad effort. It does deviate from the traditional story, but in a way that makes it more interesting as a movie. But its problem is it doesn't seem to fall squarely into any particular category. Not really an action movie because it's just one guy slaughtering people. It probably wouldn't appeal to serious Buddhists because of the non-orthodox story and all the killing. I suppose it's a drama, but it's pretty gloomy and the acting isn't all that good. With the ominous chanting on the soundtrack and the appearance of the guru, it almost seems like the director toyed with the idea of making it a horror movie.

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"The Rise and Fall of Buddhism in India"

Dredging my memory a little here but was made last year by a Thai production company...

Thai dialog with English sub-titles.... Great scenery...

I think there is 13 one hour segments available on 5 DVDs.. was also shown over many weeks on Channel 9...

Written and directed by Laksana Chirachant and can be purchased on line from the production company - www.panoramaworldwide.com Site is in Thai so you may need some assistance..

Bapak

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