IBFF 2017 BAY AREA Schedule

  • The Last Dalai Lama? directed by Mickey Lemle.
  • Fukushima Mon Amour directed by Doris Dörrie.
  • Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man directed by Lian Lunson.
  • A Thousand Mothers directed by Kim Shelton.
  • Hema Hema directed by Khyentse Norbu.
  • Golden Kingdom directed by Brian Perkin.
  • Tzu Chi directed by Babeth VanLoo.

Buddhist Film Foundation celebrates its 18th International Buddhist Film Festival (IBFF), and partners with California Film Institute in San Rafael and BuddhaFest in Los Angeles to present new programs of great cinema with a Buddhist touch. Since the inaugural IBFF at LACMA in 2003, IBFF has been to ten cities on three continents, screening over 300 films from 22 nations. As always, there will be filmmakers and special guests attending—new confirmations will be posted online.

[green buddha head with yellow top knot, blue ears, and orange triangle at third eye, above international buddhist film festival in black type and 2017 bay area in green]


Please visit Smith Rafael Film Center for online ticket purchase, and screening and venue information. Tickets can also be purchased at the SRFC box office which opens one-half hour prior to the first showing of the day; 415.454.1222 info-line for showtimes, 415.454.5813 main office.


The Last Dalai Lama?
Directed by Mickey Lemle
USA / 2016 / English / 81 min plus discussion / Documentary
Friday, June 9, 7:30 pm
In Person: Director Mickey Lemle
Special Guest: Tenzin Choegyal, singer-songwriter

[smiling man with glasses, shaved head, and gold and maroon robes looks to camera while seated near a buddhist statue]Mickey Lemle (Ram Dass Fierce Grace) updates his groundbreaking Compassion in Exile profile of the Dalai Lama with this intimate look at the enduring good humor and gentle wisdom of His Holiness, now eighty-one. Addressing his own death, the Dalai Lama considers the challenges of the prospect of his reincarnation, with Tibet still under Chinese control; his urgency and dedication come through powerfully. Filmed on location in India, and featuring vivid archival footage, with original score by Philip Glass and Tenzin Choegyal.

The screening will be preceded by a live performance by the extraordinary Tibetan singer-songwriter Tenzin Choegyal who collaborated on the film’s score with Philip Glass.


Directed by Boonsong Nakphoo
Thailand / 2016 / Thai with English subtitles / 120 min / Drama
Saturday, June 10, 1:30 pm
Special Guest: Rev. Heng Sure, abbot of Berkeley Buddhist Monastery

[barefooted man with shaved head, wearing dark orange robes walks with back to camera along railroad tracks]Former Thai Buddhist monk Boonsong’s film Wandering was a finalist for consideration as Thailand’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and features a small cast of nonprofessionals. Set in a rural area, the film follows a man, depressed after a tragedy and separated from his wife, as he slowly engages with a forest monk and begins to rebuild a life. Beautifully filmed on location in Thailand by cinematographer Uruphong Raksasat, Wandering is infused with a deep regard for Buddhist teachings, and never loses sight of the humanity and individuality of the search for peace.


Tzu Chi: Doing Good in the World
Directed by Babeth VanLoo
Netherlands, Taiwan / 2017 / English, and Taiwanese with English subtitles / 88 min plus discussion / Documentary
Saturday, June 10, 4:30 pm
In Person: Director of Photography Ashley James

[four agitated asian men in white lab coats with arms intertwined]Tzu Chi is a remarkable nonprofit in Taiwan that runs hospitals, schools, recycling services, and emergency humanitarian aid efforts. The blue-jacketed Tzu Chi volunteers may be seen at disaster sites like earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods all over the world. The organization is led by an extraordinary woman, Master Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun who began single-handedly by reaching out to neighbors to help offer health services where they were lacking in post war Taiwan. This film introduces us to her and takes us behind the scenes to explore a unique approach to living a compassionate, engaged life.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

Directed by Lian Lunson
Shorts: In Memoriam and In His Words
Directed by Carole Wilson and Don Farber
Australia / 2005; USA / 2016 / English / 115 min plus discussion / Documentary
Saturday, June 10, 7:30 pm
Special Guest: Director Lian Lunson via Skype
Special Guest: Jane Hirshfield

[man holding mike speaks and gestures with left hand against a glittering red and black background]The much celebrated writer, musician, and performer Leonard Cohen famously spent several years as a Zen Buddhist monk with Japanese teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi in Los Angeles. As tribute to Cohen and his music, this program offers a reprise of the excellent film by Australian Lian Lunson, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (featuring live performances of his songs by Bono, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Antony, Martha Wainwright and others), along with two new short films with Cohen, produced for the memorial events for Joshu Sasaki Roshi and Cohen himself.


My Buddha Is Punk
Directed by Andreas Hartmann
Myanmar, Germany / 2015 / English, and Burmese with English subtitles / 68 min plus discussion / Documentary
Sunday, June 11, 1:30 pm
Special Guest: Ellen Bruno

[young asian man with spiked hair wearing a black t-shirt bows head and clasps hands in prayer alongside a white buddha statue draped in white flowers]The new Myanmar is one of the last places one might expect to find a vibrant punk rock scene, but here we see the beginnings of a youth culture newly released from martial law. Twenty-five year old Kyaw Kyaw performs with vigor, and offers a synthesis of Buddhism and punk to his audiences and friends that rejects religious dictates and political doctrine.


A Thousand Mothers
Directed by Kim Shelton
Myanmar, USA / 2017 / English / 39 min plus discussion / Documentary
In Person: Director Kim Shelton

[young nun in pink robes and covered head walks alongside a clothesline with drying clothes and pink robes while reading a book]Filmed on location at a rural Buddhist nunnery in Myanmar by noted cinematographer Kirsten Johnson, A Thousand Mothers is an intimate look at the refuge and opportunity that a monastic life offers girls and women there, even as the nation begins to change.


Fukushima Mon Amour
Directed by Doris Dörrie
Germany, Japan / 2016 / German and Japanese with English subtitles / 108 min / Drama
Sunday, June 11, 4:30 pm
In Person: Co-star Moshe Cohen, founder of Clowns Without Borders

[black and white image of blond young woman gazing out a door alongside an asian woman seated and working outside]Doris Dörrie’s (Enlightenment Guaranteed, Cherry Blossoms) compelling new film intentionally evokes Alain Resnais’ masterpiece Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and gracefully reveals her own unique vision. Two women—one an older geisha, the other an aimless young German—try to build lives in “The Zone,” a wasteland beset by abandoned buildings and lingering radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. There is sly humor amidst the confusion and the memories. Co-starring Clowns Without Borders founder Moshe Cohen, and filmed in lustrous black and white by Hanno Lentz.


Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait
Directed by Khyentse Norbu
Bhutan / 2016 / English, and Dutch with English subtitles / 95 min plus discussion / Drama
Sunday, June 11, 7:30 pm
Special Guest: Wes “Scoop” Nisker

[asian woman with short black hair, pale skin, and red lips, slightly parted, stares to cameera]The new feature film from Tibetan Buddhist teacher Khyentse Norbu (The Cup, Travellers & Magicians) unfolds mysteriously and surprisingly to reveal a world of masks and secrets in a rural Bhutan rarely seen. It’s strange, unpredictable, dreamlike, beautiful…a film about sex, death, identity, gender, and delusion. “Dazzling… self-discovery lies at the heart of this mesmerizing new film…a colorful plunge into a world where ancient rites can summon our noblest and our basest instincts.” –Toronto International Film Festival.