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Movies About Buddhism

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Opening 15 Sep in the USA, Zen Noir looks like an interesting Buddhist detective yarn.

Amazon customers seemed to like the DVD but film critics didn't:

"Poverty row rarely has been as poverty stricken as this digital feature. The whole thing looks as if it was shot in a black box, with only a few wall hangings and teapots to suggest a Buddhist temple, where a nameless detective seems to be investigating a murder. The actors, all unprofessional with the exception of Kim Chan as the Zen master, step on each other's clipped lines so regularly that it becomes a stylistic affectation, like Mamet directing Beckett. The detective, who is not so much solving a crime as dealing with grief issues (flashbacks of his deceased wife look like Clairol commercials), reaches enlightenment when he realizes the orange is just as delicious when consumed on a bad day as on a good day. Writer/director Marc Rosenbush's first film, from the false toughness of its surface to its soft, pulpy heart, will please neither aficionados of the detective genre nor devotees of Eastern religion. Those with a taste for both will have twice the reasons to dislike it."

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Kim -- the novel by Rudyard Kipling -- (1984) starring Peter O'Toole

Amazon.com review:

"Based on one of Kipling's greatest novels, Kim is the rousing story of a fifteen-year-old orphan boy living by his wits in 1890's India. On a quest to discover his real identity, Kim is befriended by two remarkably different men: a saintly Buddhist monk, who sees the spirited boy as his "perfect" disciple, and a British spy, who trains Kim for a daring mission against Russian invaders. As Kim realizes, he may assume many identities--Indian, Englishman, disciple, spy--but he must always remain true to himself.

"The international cast includes Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Bryan Brown (F/X, The Thorn Birds), and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Beautifully shot throughout India, Kim is a heart-filled adventure for the entire family."

BTW Buddhists are allowed to have fun.

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I watched Act Normal last night, very interesting film documentary that follows the tale of a British man who ordains as a Theravada Buddhist monk at an early age, first for two years in the UK, then 10 years in Thailand. He is then invited to administer to the Thai community in Iceland, thus becoming the first Buddhist monk ever to reside in Iceland. He stays there two years, if I remember correctly (his first stint as a monks lasts 16 years total), before leaving the monkhood to get a taste of 'normal' life as a married man. After working as a security guard in Iceland for awhile, the man leaves his wife and returns to the monkhood.

The director filmed the man's story over a 10-year period that covers his residence in Thailand and Iceland, the dissolution of the marriage and his return to robes. It's directed in a very interesting way, attempting (if I may interpret the director's intentions) to evoke the idea that both the 'normal' life and the monk's life are equally dream-like. Along the way we get a fair amount of Buddhist philosophy, blended with humour, and one man's ruminations on the illusory nature of romantic love.

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Wait! You forgot the most authentic movie about Buddhism - The Golden Child with Eddie Murphy. I almost achieved enlightnement watching it. I was this close!

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I watched Act Normal last night, very interesting film documentary that follows the tale of a British man who ordains as a Theravada Buddhist monk at an early age, first for two years in the UK, then 10 years in Thailand. He is then invited to administer to the Thai community in Iceland, thus becoming the first Buddhist monk ever to reside in Iceland. He stays there two years, if I remember correctly (his first stint as a monks lasts 16 years total), before leaving the monkhood to get a taste of 'normal' life as a married man. After working as a security guard in Iceland for awhile, the man leaves his wife and returns to the monkhood.

The director filmed the man's story over a 10-year period that covers his residence in Thailand and Iceland, the dissolution of the marriage and his return to robes. It's directed in a very interesting way, attempting (if I may interpret the director's intentions) to evoke the idea that both the 'normal' life and the monk's life are equally dream-like. Along the way we get a fair amount of Buddhist philosophy, blended with humour, and one man's ruminations on the illusory nature of romantic love.

Any chance of purchasing a video of Act Normal in Thailand, or perhaps even in Chiangmai? My appetite has been whetted...

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I watched Act Normal last night, very interesting film documentary that follows the tale of a British man who ordains as a Theravada Buddhist monk at an early age, first for two years in the UK, then 10 years in Thailand. He is then invited to administer to the Thai community in Iceland, thus becoming the first Buddhist monk ever to reside in Iceland. He stays there two years, if I remember correctly (his first stint as a monks lasts 16 years total), before leaving the monkhood to get a taste of 'normal' life as a married man. After working as a security guard in Iceland for awhile, the man leaves his wife and returns to the monkhood.

The director filmed the man's story over a 10-year period that covers his residence in Thailand and Iceland, the dissolution of the marriage and his return to robes. It's directed in a very interesting way, attempting (if I may interpret the director's intentions) to evoke the idea that both the 'normal' life and the monk's life are equally dream-like. Along the way we get a fair amount of Buddhist philosophy, blended with humour, and one man's ruminations on the illusory nature of romantic love.

Any chance of purchasing a video of Act Normal in Thailand, or perhaps even in Chiangmai? My appetite has been whetted...

I haven't seen it for sale anywhere here. The director, Olaf Le Fleur, sent me a licensed DVD. Perhaps I should donate it to a worthy DVD library in Chiang Mai, any suggestions? AUA?

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I watched Act Normal last night, very interesting film documentary that follows the tale of a British man who ordains as a Theravada Buddhist monk at an early age, first for two years in the UK, then 10 years in Thailand. He is then invited to administer to the Thai community in Iceland, thus becoming the first Buddhist monk ever to reside in Iceland. He stays there two years, if I remember correctly (his first stint as a monks lasts 16 years total), before leaving the monkhood to get a taste of 'normal' life as a married man. After working as a security guard in Iceland for awhile, the man leaves his wife and returns to the monkhood.

The director filmed the man's story over a 10-year period that covers his residence in Thailand and Iceland, the dissolution of the marriage and his return to robes. It's directed in a very interesting way, attempting (if I may interpret the director's intentions) to evoke the idea that both the 'normal' life and the monk's life are equally dream-like. Along the way we get a fair amount of Buddhist philosophy, blended with humour, and one man's ruminations on the illusory nature of romantic love.

Any chance of purchasing a video of Act Normal in Thailand, or perhaps even in Chiangmai? My appetite has been whetted...

I haven't seen it for sale anywhere here. The director, Olaf Le Fleur, sent me a licensed DVD. Perhaps I should donate it to a worthy DVD library in Chiang Mai, any suggestions? AUA?

Great idea. AUA would be the best place to benefit the most number of English speaking Buddhists or movie enthusiasts. The gift of the Dhamma (albeit in the form of film drama) is the best gift ever!

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Beautifully shot throughout India, Kim is a heart-filled adventure for the entire family."

BTW Buddhists are allowed to have fun.

Having recently read Kim and The Search for Kim, I ordered both DVD versions of the movie from cdwow.com. For fun I think I preferred the 1951 version, even though it had some Hollywood cornball and the entire Himalayan sequence was changed to give Errol Flynn a bigger part and accommodate the young age of the actor playing Kim. The villains are really villanous in this one.

The 1984 version sticks more closely to the book, is longer and more realistic. Kim is played by an older Indian actor who seems a bit mature for the early scenes but is perfect for the Himalayan scenes. Bryan Brown looks the part of an Afghan horse-trader whereas Flynn looks more like an Arabian prince.

Neither movie makes any effort to make the lama appear oriental. In the earlier version he's played with quiet dignity, but wears a hat that makes him look like a cross between Friar Tuck and Little John. Peter O'Toole's lama stands out more with his yellow robes, bald head and scraggly grey hair but he plays the character with no dignity, like a staggering old duffer who's escaped from the old folks' home. And his portrayal of the lama's enlightenment is like someone experiencing the onset of an epileptic fit!

With so many excellent Asian actors in movies these days, not to mention real lamas and tulkus, it's truly bizarre watching a farang play an Asian. Not just the looks, but they don't walk the same, don't move the same, and don't have the necessary reserved demeanour. Well, OK, David Carradine excepted. :o

I enjoyed both versions of Kim but it's a difficult one to film and the book worked better for me.

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Kundun

This is a very authentic portrayal of Tibetan Buddhism, but it makes no concession to an audience who have no background - it would I guess be a bit esoteric and impressionistic (I do have the 'background' so I can't put myself in those shoes) but very powerful for that.

Hi andyinkat,

finally got a copy of Kundun recently and watched it. Now I am glad there is someone with more background than me. There are so many questions:

1. Why this episode with the regent? I would have preferred to expand the sequence with the walking stick instead.

2. What do the twigs in the chimneys mean?

3. Why so many performances by the oracle? I understand he rarely is consulted. From the film one could think they had seesions every other week. :o

Apropos oracle: there is another film around that I am looking for: the state oracle of tibet

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Buddha's Lost Children, about Thai Buddhism, was screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival recently.

More info:

http://newportbeach.bside.com/?_view=_film...filmId=16701886

http://www.buddhaslostchildren.com/Buddha&...20Children.html

from the NBFF press:

Stunning cinematography, intimate filmmaking and a compelling story make this film an extraordinary experience of a hidden realm. The term 'grassroots Buddhism' gains a new meaning, and through the eyes of small children we share in their amazing true journey when they transform from neglected village boys to self-confident novices. Filmed over the course of a year on location in Thailand this film is an amazing true story of compassion and tough love. Thai with English subtitles.
Festival awards (from the production website:
Buddha’s Lost Children wins the top documentary prize at the AFI Festival in Los Angeles receiving the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary. The film also was awarded the City of Rome prize, at the Asiaticafilmediale in Rome and a Silver Dove at DOK Leipzig: 'For this extraordinary real-life adventure that recounts a superb tale of a heroic undertaking to create a better world, and all this brought to the screen with a breathtaking cinematic sensibility.' Jury report

Buddha's Lost Children was also awarded the Crystal Film prize, at The Netherlands Film Festival for reaching an audience of 10,000 in its first 15 days of release.

At the Vancouver International Film Festival 2006, Buddha’s Lost Children was a runner up in the People's Choice Award for most popular film, and was nominated for The National Film

Board Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The film also screened to great popular acclaim in the ‘Highlights of the Lowlands’ section of the recent International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA).

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'Groundhog Day' has sometimes been reffered to as having a good theme similar to Buddhist thought..... keep coming back until the lessons are learned

I always shudder when I think of the Title to 'The Little Buddha' although I like the movie....... it should have been...'the Little Lama'

the subject of the movie 'Act Normal' is a regular poster at the 'E-Sangha' website forums.... http://www.e-sangha.com/

I also liked 'The Golden Child'... but why do many of these have to start with a massacre of monks....'The Bullet proof monk' did too

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I watched the 'spring,summer,fall,winter....spring' one yesterday...

Mahayana in Korea is obviously very different to Theravada here..... the guy has sex whilst a monk... disrobes... then comes back as a monk

don't they have Paraccika offences then? Here he wouldn't be able to re-ordain.

They like their little doorways.... but you can just walk around the sides...odd! ...like in his bedroom?? like setting-up a doorframe in the middle of a field.... and only allowing yourself to go through it... not around....!!

nice setting though.... the hut floating in the middle of the lake... nice retreat place

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The Mindful Way is a 20-minute documentary about Buddhism in Thailand, but in particular at Ajahn Chah's monastery. Contains a short interview with Ajahn Chah himself. This video clip is on Google Video so it can be viewed in Thailand.

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I always got a kick out of Ang Lee's effort in the BMW "The Hire" series, with Clive Owen as The Driver, called Chosen. Lee cast his son, Mason, as the Passenger.

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The Sri Lankan film, Sankara is playing at the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival.

24 July 2007: 12:00 Sankara (85') (C 2006 / Sri Lanka / Feature / Colour / 35mm / Thai & Eng Sub.

26 July 2007: 17:40 Sankara (85') (C 2006 / Sri Lanka / Feature / Colour / 35mm / Thai & Eng Sub.

SF World Cinema #6

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