[Event Announcement] The Vancouver International Film Festival: A Buddhist Focus (Sept.29 – Oct.14, 2016)

This year, VIFF presents a collection of interesting films with a Buddhist focus. Check the list below for details:


October 1 & 2: Suffering of Ninko

Ninko no junan

Gateway | Dragons & Tigers

We’re in the ancient Japan of the Hyaku-monogatari (the classical ghost-story anthology The Hundred Tales), but you’ve never seen a Japanese period movie like this before. Ninko is a virtuous Buddhist monk who’s embarrassed to discover that he’s irresistible to many women (and some men). After a particularly troubling encounter with a masked woman, he undertakes a journey to “purify” himself, hoping that this will equip him to rebuff sexual advances. He meets the samurai Kanzo and hears of a village decimated by the rapacious mountain goddess Yama-onna, who kills men to absorb their energy. Finally Ninko has a quest to fulfill…

Niwatsukino’s wildly enjoyable debut is crammed with humour and visual surprises. At a time when 95% of Japanese indies are about the emotional and sexual-identity problems of young people, it is (to say the least) refreshing to find a movie that goes for broke with a subject that blows genre conventions apart while offering gutsy storytelling, vivid performances and a fabulous sense of cinema’s possibilities. Buddhists will love it, but so will most everyone else.
Tony Rayns


October 3 & 11: Crosscurrent

Changjiang tu

Gateway | Dragons & Tigers

 The core of the film is surreal, almost supernatural—a man and a woman from a different time and space travel against each other, progressively and retrogressively at the same.

– Yang Chao

It has been over ten years since Beijing Film Academy graduate Yang Chao’s last feature film Passages (2004), but the wait was more than worth it. Poetic, enigmatic and achingly beautiful, this long-awaited masterpiece opens new directions for Chinese cinema.

Gao Chun (Qin Hao) is a young captain hired to take a small cargo ship up the Yangtze River. One day he finds a handwritten book of poetry hidden in the boat. The nameless poet’s abstrusely beautiful texts work their way into Gao’s soul. He disembarks at every port on his journey, and at each landing he has a vision of a mysterious woman, An Lu (newcomer Xin Zhilei)… or is it perhaps a series of women, issued from a magical alchemy the poems provoke inside his imagination? Their encounters become increasingly intimate, but once the ship passes the Three Gorges Dam she disappears.

The great cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bin works with Yang to create landscapes of overwhelming beauty: their choice of 35mm film produces radiant, light-infused images of palpable power and unlimited depth. Sensuality made visible: a triumph of cinematic art.
Shelly Kraicer


October 8 & 13: Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait

Gateway | Dragons & Tigers

Very probably the most carnal movie ever directed by a Buddhist lama, Hema Hema is a captivatingly strange and visually beguiling mystery set in a lush, tropical Bhutanese valley. Here, every 12 years, invitees don face masks and abandon their personal identities until the new moon rises. This renunciation of voice, personality and gender is preparation for bardo, the state between life and death—but for the living this is no easy thing (anonymity comes with certain temptations, after all), and the ritual carries severe penalties for failure…

Immediately fascinating for its immersion in exotic custom, dance and Buddhist ceremonial rites, the fourth feature by Khyentse Norbu (The Cup; Travelers and Magicians) further intrigues with a subtle, essentially wordless melodrama that plays out within this spiritual framework; a tale of subterfuge and transgression that casts a long shadow for at least one of the participants. The title translates as “Once upon a Time,” and Norbu’s storytelling is a masterly demonstration of the classic filmmaking mantra: “show, don’t tell.” A Buddhist scholar and teacher, Norbu also draws out thought-provoking spiritual and philosophical themes. The result is a movie to dazzle the senses and to ponder afterwards.


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