Buddhist Film Festival in Waterloo, Canada

by Shagun Randhawa, Cordweekly.com, Oct 24, 2007

Uptown Waterloo balances your Karma for a day

Waterloo, Canada -- In the heart of Waterloo, people gather for a night of enlightenment. From the horrific scenes of the Taliban destroying the famous Buddha statues in Afghanistan to a detective story of logic vs Zen thinking, there is not a moment when fascination and amazement cease.

It is the fourth annual Buddhist Film Festival, where youth and adults alike come together to showcase and enjoy Buddhist culture in a fundraising event that allows anyone interested to experience a journey into elucidation.

On Sunday, October 27, in the Waterloo Adult Recreation Centre (located on King and Allen Street) from 4-9:30 pm, the Buddhist Film Festival will be hosted by the Waterloo Riverview Dharma Centre, a not-for-profit organization. From the beginning to the end, it is packed full of activities such as three movies showcasing Buddhist culture, as well as a vegetarian meal, commentary and discussion and a bazaar.

“The Buddhist Film Festival is an annual event and a time for us to reach out to the community at large and make ourselves visible to the community. We try to be very broad with the films we cover, so that the films would appeal to everybody,” says Deb Candrall, from the Waterloo River Dharma Centre. The organization began in someone’s home eight years ago and has grown over the years, now even having a centre in uptown Waterloo that holds weekly classes for those interested in Buddhism and meditation.

The film festival showcases different films that all touch upon an aspect of Buddhism. The first film in the line up is called The Giant Buddhas (2005), directed by Oscar nominee Christian Frei. The famous huge Buddha statues stood on a cliff in the Bamiyan valley of Afghanistan for almost 1,500 years. It became an important and attractive pilgrimage site for practising Buddhists.

However, in 2001, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar gave the order to destroy the two Buddha statues. The dramatic event is the inspiration for this cinematic essay on the terror and ignorance to which Buddhism and its culture is subjected.

Another movie being shown at the annual Buddhist Film Festival is Fearless Mountain (2006). It is a documentary by director Tony Anthony. Filmed on location at the Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California – a serene community situated on the slopes of Fearless Mountain – this documentary explores the lifestyle of the forest-dwelling Theravada Buddhist monks, who have chosen to live as alms mendicants, living only on gifts offered by the community.

The last movie on the list is Zen Noir (2006) an interesting film directed by Marc Rosenbush. It begins with a detective, still in mourning for his lost wife, investigating a mysterious death in a Buddhist temple.

This movie shows the conflict between Zen and logical thinking, as the detective’s logical thinking proves useless in the intuitive, non-linear world of Zen. While attempting to question the inhabitants of the temple, Ed, a monk with an attitude and secrets to hide; Jane, the mysterious femme fatale; and the Master, an infuriatingly obscure Zen teacher who does a lot of strange things with oranges – the detective is defeated at every turn by the suspect’s Zen way of thinking.

“The films are very fascinating and there isn’t an everyday opportunity to see these films anywhere else. This film festival allows for interactive social time, and the meal is fabulous. Students are encouraged to attend, as the tickets for students are discounted,” says Candrall.

It is indeed a worthy event to look into, with the films, the vegetarian meal that is provided by Classic India Restaurant and the bazaar. The tickets are $45 ($30 for students) and are available at Words Worth Books, Generation X video store, Seven Shores Trading Co. and the Dharma Centre at 92 King St. S. in Waterloo.