WIFF of a Gem

by Ahimsa CMD, Kota Bharu, Malaysia, The Buddhist Channel, May 23, 2006

This is the first time I am writing to the Buddhist Channel and I would like to offer my deep felt gratitude to all those involved in organising the on-going Wesak International Film Festival (WIFF) here in Kuala Lumpur.

I think I can safely speak on behalf of the many people who have packed the halls at the Malaysia Tourism Centre that the film festival have given invaluable insight into the world of Buddhism which so many of us are unaware of. While many of us are contented to practice within the confine of our homes and occasionally partake in meritorious deeds at the temples, we forget that many Buddhists in other places struggle for peace and enlightenment in harsh environments and with little to get by.

After sitting through "Travellers and Magicians", I realize that in places where material support is basic and emphasises only the bare necessity, people can still take joy in "pointless" activities such as archery. Over here, where we have so much in abundance, we still complain of not having enough. Or the heart wrenching trial and tribulations of Venerable Hong Yi in his quest to seek enlightenment, so well portrayed in the film "Bright Moon". How many of us could even sit still for 5 minutes?

I over heard a conversation that WIFF was organised because some people recognised the power of cinema as a teaching medium. How true. And when at times the Dharma as being taught in temples and centres seem to be getting stale and predictable, along comes this WIFF. Indeed, what a breath of fresh air it has brought to the local Sangha fraternity.

On another note, I would also like to offer a special tribute to the producers and makers of our very own documentary, "Chief: The Life and Work of K Sri Dhammananda". I don't recall at anytime in my life watching a locally made Dharma based production that moved me to tears. As a plain devotee, I do not have the privilege to know Chief Reverend personally, and have always listened to his teachings from a distance. I've always regarded him as a monk, a holy person. In this documentary however, it offers a glimpse of a wise, compassionate human being behind the robe. The producers may not be aware but having access to such heart warming knowledge about Chief Reverend through this film is something that I will always cherish.

The production of "Chief" also demonstrates that with ready opportunities like WIFF, talented local Buddhist film makers have the chance to be unearthed. Based on what ever little knowledge I have about film making, I sense that tremendous effort was put in to produce what is unarguably a first rate production. It is not easy to make an entertaining documentary with what is basically a "talking head" film. So to have entertained the crowd, educated them and then move them to tears (especially the last part before the rolling credits) is no small feat.

I sincerely hope that this little documentary would be the catalyst of greater things to come. In fact, I look forward to a full length Buddhist feature film in the next edition of WIFF. And with this, I would like to say a big Sadhu to everyone involved in making WIFF a success, for the event is truly one of the crowning moments of Buddhist development in this country.