Journey of Iceland's First Buddhist Monk at Fest

by Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 22 July 1009

Singapore -- Think Buddhism and images of incense-filled temples or secluded monasteries come to mind. But Iceland?

Well that is the setting for Act Normal, the tale of Iceland's pioneer Buddhist monk. It is one of 10 firms in Thus Have I Seen (T.H.I.S) Buddhist Festival 2009. This unconventional movie fits in with the festival's aim of showcasing Buddhism's diversity.

The festival at the Lido Cineplex starts on Sept 13 and spans a wide geographical and thematic range from Bhutan's concept pf Gross National Happiness to US prisoners finding peace via meditation. it is organized by Dharma in Action, a group focusing on innovative approaches to Buddhism.

The name of the festival plays on the phrase "Thus have I heard", which begins many sutras, and the event seeks to introduce people to the faith.

The festival's organising committee chairman Teo Puay Kim says: "This film festival is an opportunity for everyone including Buddhists, to know more about Buddhist cultures and values worldwide."

"It is really not up to Buddhists to `convert' anyone. It is for those who are not familiar with Buddhism to decide if they wish to know more."

About a third of the festival's $100,000 working budget came from Buddhist organisations and individuals. The organisers aim to raise another third from sales of the 5358 tickets, and make up the shortfall with the help of donations.

The opening film, A Full Bright Moon (2005), recounts the life of Venerable Hong Yi, a forerunner in unifying and modernising Buddhism in China. Starring Pu Chunxi and Vivien Hsu, the film won Best Movie and Best Actor at the 11th China Cinematography Huabiao Awards.

Closing the festival is Iranian film maker Hana Makhmalbaf's Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (2007), which tells of an Afghan girl's struggle against gender inequality in her quest for an education.

T.H.I.S Buddhist Film Festival 2009

Where: Lido Cineplex
When: Sept 13 to 19
Admission: $15 for opening film & $10 for others
from or call 65-6348-5555