Donations on behalf of specific projects are accepted by Buddhist Film Foundation, Inc. (BFF) and are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by US law. Please visit the individual project websites or contact the for more information.
Donations by check (please be sure to note the specific project for the donation) may be mailed to:
Buddhist Film Foundation
Zaentz Media Center
2600 Tenth Street, Suite 409
Berkeley, CA 94710-3104 USA
Current projects with BFF fiscal sponsorship are:
Arising Light: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
and the Birth of a New Era in India
Producer: Navaloka Productions; David Blundell, Director
Status: completed 30 minute promotional version
Official website: www.arising-light.org
Dr. Ambedkar was one of the founding fathers of India’s independence, helping frame its constitution and serving as its first Minister of Law in 1947. He was a Hindu dalit, an Untouchable, and in 1956 led an unprecedented mass conversion to Buddhism with hundreds of thousands of other dalits in a public event in Nagpur, India. Arising Light tells his story and follows this movement to liberate dalits from the oppression of their Hindu caste status as it evolves into a dynamic social phenomenon approaching its 50th anniversary.
Producer: Thunderbolt Creations; Director: Charlee Parkinson
Status: in post-production
Official website: www.theroaringlions.com
Chronicles the journey of a young American woman in India in search of a vision of a peaceful future. Encounters with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Ogyen Thinley Dorjee the 17th Karmapa, Tai Situ Rinpoche and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, among others, provide insights and inspiration from Tibetan Buddhist perspectives.
Buddha’s Lost Children
Producer: EMS Films; Director: Mark Verkerk
Official website: www.buddhaslostchildren.com
- Grand Jury Prize for Documentary AFI Festival
- Official Dutch Entry for the Academy Awards®
A rare look at life way beyond the view of most, filmed on location among the hill tribes in the border regions of Burma and Thailand, the Golden Triangle infamous for its drug lords and violence. A nomadic, horseback-riding Buddhist monk, Phra Kru Ba, a former boxer known as the “Tiger Monk,” devotes his life to helping the isolated communities there, and rescuing orphan children.
Chasing the Face of Buddha
Producer: Rod Ruel; Director: Lindsay Rushaleau
Status: in production
Producer’s website: TBA
Chasing the Face of Buddha is a feature length documentary that follows the extraordinary pilgrimage of master sculptor, Sunti Pichetchaiyukul, as he takes on the greatest and most challenging project of his career. Over the course of the coming year Sunti will attempt to produce the world’s first hyper-realistic and potentially most historically accurate depiction of the man whom he has aspired to sculpt his whole life… Buddha. Chasing the Face of Buddha will provide a visceral experience of the artistic journey and explore both the possibilities and personal limitations that are encountered when attempting to give form to the ineffable. Filmed on location in Thailand to Nepal, India, England and the United States, the film takes the viewer on a cinematic journey across cultural lines to travel deep into the heart of the creative process.
Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF)
Festival website: diff.co.in
The primary aim of DIFF is to celebrate the love of cinema and to offer Dharamshala’s varied denizens exposure to good quality independent films from around the world. Equally important is the goal of creating a non-partisan, cultural event where all of the area’s residents—Indians, Tibetan refugees, and expatriates alike—can participate in and be stakeholders. Founded by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, DIFF is presented by White Crane Arts & Media Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes contemporary art, cinema, and independent media practices in the Himalayan region.
The Dharma Bum
Producer/Director: Ian Lawton
Status: in production
Official Website: www.thedharmabum.eu
The Dharma Bum is a feature length, part animated, documentary film telling the true story of the 19th century Irish figure, Laurence Carroll, the first western Buddhist monk, who took the name U Dhammaloka.
Every War Has Two Losers
Producer: Zinc Films; Director: Haydn Reiss
Status: completed, festival screenings, DVD release
Every War Has Two Losers tells the story of how one man, William Stafford (1914–1993), chose to answer the call to war. It is a story of confronting beliefs that swirl around war—Isn’t war inevitable? Even necessary? What about the enemy? Stafford refused to fight in World War II and served four years in camps for conscientious objectors. Later he was the winner of the National Book Award for poetry.
Narrated by Linda Hunt; voice of William Stafford: Peter Coyote; original music by John Gorka; featuring Alice Walker, Robert Bly, Maxine Hong Kingston, Coleman Barks, Naomi Shibab Nye, W.S. Merwin, Michael Meade and Kim Stafford.
Giving Life to Life
Producer: BOS; Director: Patrick van Boeckel
Status: completed (IBFF 2015 BAY AREA premiere)
Official website: TBA
Roshi Joan Halifax is one of the best known American Buddhist teachers today. The film travels along with her and explores en route how in every moment the greatest contrasts of life are inextricably linked. In her committed Buddhism, the silent practice and the compassionate objective to change the world are not contrasts, but two sides of the same coin. The film examines how the duality we experience in our everyday life (of which the duality of death and life is the most extreme) can be eliminated by experiencing life as a continuing journey during which everything stops and starts again simultaneously.
Into the Current: Burma’s Political Prisoners
Producer: Democratic Voice of Burma; Director: Jeanne Hallacy
Official website: www.intothecurrent.org
This film honors the leaders of Burma’s peaceful democracy movement and their personal sacrifices for the freedom of their people. The film documents the struggle of prisoners of conscience jailed by one of the world’s most repressive military regimes. Into the Current (“Yayzan Lan” in Burmese) is co-produced with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an exile broadcaster that delivers programs by satellite into a country without press freedom.
The film explores Burma’s non-violent movement and the convictions of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, poet Min Ko Naing, comedian Zarganar and women’s leader Nilar Thein. Their stories are told through scenes of political activities filmed at risk by DVB edited with rare archival footage and new material filmed with Burmese exiles. Bo Kyi, a former prisoner, introduces his leaders as he carries their voice and the fate of the 2000 other political prisoners to the international stage.
Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF)
Official website: www.kimff.org
KIMFF features films that explore the growing diversity and complexity of the human relationship with mountains. Organized by Himal Association in 2000, KIMFF has presented a wide range of works from all over the world in its festivals in Kathmandu, Nepal. KIMFF seeks to engender a deeper understanding of the social and cultural realities of the world’s highlands, especially those in developing nations. The upcoming 12th edition of the KIMFF will take place December 11–15, 2014.
Producer: Mangusta Productions; Director: Fabrizio Chiesa
Status: in production
Official website: luckydark.com
Suffering and liberation from suffering… A crucial subject explored through the teachings of Roshi Joan Halifax, one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers in America. She explains that without suffering there is no possibility for spiritual maturation. To understand why we suffer is the most powerful way to understand who we really are. Once we start to realize our true nature we can start transforming all the poisons that afflict us into medicines for ourselves and others. Darkness can become the fruitful darkness, the lucky dark that reveals our own light.
Meditate and Destroy
Documentary about Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx, a memoir about life lived at the edge of destruction until he finds his way back to the Buddhist practice of his well-known father, author/teacher Stephen Levine, though on his own, punk terms. Non-conformity, community service, substance abuse, prison, meditation… compassion in action and more.
Producer: Zohe Films; Director: Jennifer Fox
Status: completed, released on several platforms
Official website: www.myreincarnationfilm.com
- Leipzig Film Festival
- Festival dei Popoli
- IDFA (International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam)
- Hot Docs (Canadian International Documentary Festival, Toronto)
With unprecedented twenty-year access, My Reincarnation tells the inside story of Choegyal Namkhai Norbu—one of the last incarnate masters to be trained in Tibet, and his Italian-born son, Yeshi’s, stubborn reluctance to follow in his father’s footsteps. My Reincarnation is an epic father-son drama, spanning two decades and three generations, about family, spirituality, cultural survival, identity, inheritance, growing old, growing up—and past and future lives.
Jennifer Fox is the award-winning filmmaker best known for her Beirut: The Last Home Movie and the ten-part PBS series An American Love Story; her most recent film is the six hour Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman.
Producer: Commonfolk Films; Director: Edward A. Burger
Producer’s website: www.commonfolkfilms.com
One Mind is a documentary film that engages audiences with the living practice of a traditional Zen (Chan) monastic community in Southern China. Eschewing talking-head interviews and the authority of a narrative voice, the film offers a 90-minute immersion into the textures and sounds of a natural life, subtly expressing a motivation toward the spacious wisdom and compassion born of an enlightened awareness of unity and interdependence. In One Mind some common myths are dismissed, as audiences see that robust spiritual communities committed to strict adherence to tradition are thriving, while remaining somewhat hidden, at the core of China’s spiritual landscape today.
Weathering the traumatic and rapidly shifting tides of history over the past century, the disciples of China’s great Zen Master, Empty Cloud (Xu Yun) have emerged at the heart of the revitalization of Zen Buddhism in China. Zhenru Monastery, the place where Master Empty Cloud lived and died, is considered one of China’s most respected and austere communities, maintaining a lineage over 1,200 years old. In harmony with the land that sustains them, the monks at Zhenru Monastery farm, grow tea, and maintain a daily liturgy and strict meditation schedule. At the heart of this community is a group of cloistered meditators. Respected for their utter dedication to an internal art of cultivation, they are supported as the wellspring of wisdom and profound compassion from which the community draws its strength.
A Place Beyond Sky
Producer/Director: Alison Fast
Status: in production
Official website: TBA
This is a one hour broadcast documentary film about Lama Tsultrim Allione (Joan Ewing), a Western woman whose life’s work is to retrieve the wisdom of the feminine within the Buddhist tradition. Lama Tsultrim is among the first American women to be ordained a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition in the 1970s by her root teacher, HH the 16th Karmapa, and she has helped to blaze a trail for women practitioners in the West. Her own story, coupled with her biographical details of early Tantric female practitioners, will illuminate the history and accomplishments of women yoginis living in India and Tibet, whose liberation stories provide a formidable example for our time.
Producer/Director: Pema Dhondup
Status: in development
Official website: www.searchdalailama.com
This is a unique film and video series project exploring the over 500 year old tradition of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is due to mark his 80th birthday in 2015, and the future of the institution is unknown. The project consists of a dramatic feature film and a series of shorts documenting each of the historic Dalai Lamas. Producer/director Pema Dhondup (We’re No Monks) founded the Tibetan production company Clear Mirror Pictures in Los Angeles, California.
Swans at the Lake—The American Story of Buddhism
Producers: Lyn Goldfarb and Gaetano Kazuo Maida
Status: in development
Official website: TBA
Swans at the Lake is the first documentary series to comprehensively explore the American encounter with Buddhism and its many and diverse forms, key participants and over 150 year history in the US. This character-driven series is about immigrants and intellectuals, artists and activism, curiosity and tradition—from exoticism to mindfulness, and from the margins to the mainstream.
The series is inspired by the book How the Swans Came to the Lake–A Narrative History of Buddhism in America (Shambhala/Random House) by Rick Fields, for which exclusive film rights have been secured. A revised and updated edition is in the works.
The Sweet Requiem
Producer: Ritu Sarin
Directors: Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Status: in pre-production
Official website: www.whitecranefilms.com
The Sweet Requiem is a dramatic feature about a young exile Tibetan woman living in New Delhi. When she unexpectedly sees a man she holds responsible for her father’s murder on a high Himalayan pass, long-suppressed memories of her traumatic escape from Tibet are reignited and she is propelled on an obsessive search for reconciliation and closure. Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzin Sonam are veteran documentarians whose award-winning previous dramatic feature, Dreaming Lhasa, is distributed by First Run Features.
Producers: Oren Moverman, Lawrence Inglee; Director: Jennifer Fox
Official website: www.aluminousmindproduction.com/in-development/the-tale/
A new fiction feature based on a true story, The Tale is an investigative thriller into one woman’s memory that breaks apart the truth of who we think we are, to reveal the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Attached to star in The Tale are Academy Award® nominated actress Laura Dern (Wild), Academy Award® winning actress Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream), and Emmy Award winning actor Sebastian Koch (The Lives of Others). Directed by Jennifer Fox (My Reincarnation, American Love Story, Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman).
Through the Valley
Executive Producer: Eva Anisko; Director: Tad Fettig
Status: in production
Producer’s website: www.theartandritualofdeath.com
Through the Valley is an original multi-platform documentary project that explores death rituals around the world, from both cultural and personal perspectives. Viewers will be brought into the inner reaches of different faiths and communities during one of their most profound and vulnerable moments. From Hindu cremations on the Ganges to Buddhist sky burials in Mongolia to a New Orleans jazz funeral, the film showcases the compelling range of beliefs about the meaning of life, death, and the hereafter, and also helps to unravel some of the taboos associated with death. At a critical point in time when culture is becoming increasingly globalized, this project also works to preserve the sanctity of indigenous rituals and traditions unique to people around the world.
Producer/Director: John Dileva Halpern
Producers: Julia Miller, Jim Miller, Post Factory NY
Executive Producer: MDS Productions
Status: in post-production
Official website: www.mdsfilms.com
For the first time, a non-fiction feature length film tells the story of the meditation movement and Buddhism’s relationship to today’s new consciously engaged culture and advocacy for a sustainable future.
The film spans the past three decades of Tibetan Buddhism’s contribution to the West, the evolution of a spiritual intelligence and motivation beyond self, toward an altruistic engagement with others, the world, and our environment.
Featuring rare, in-depth interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Dzongzar Rinpoche, Bernardo Bertolucci, Philip Glass, Melissa Mathison, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and others, revealing the spiritual and cultural roots of this emerging, social paradigm. Moving into the first two decades of the 21st century, Dr. Mark Epstein; Gyeltrul Jigme Rinpoche; Dr. Joseph Loizzo; Matthieu Ricard, PhD; Sharon Salzberg; Robert Thurman, PhD.
Plus James Cameron, Richard Gere, Yoko Ono, and others further explore this altruistic engagement, related science, research, activism, and art as it evolves today.
Beautifully filmed in India, Nepal, Tibet, Switzerland, France, Canada, and the USA over the past twenty-five years.
Zen Life: D.T. Suzuki
Producer: International Videoworks; Michael Goldberg
Executive Producer/Director; John Wittmayer, Co-producer
Official website: www.azenlife-film.org
Purchase DVD now.
The Zen philosopher, D.T. (Daisetz Teitaro) Suzuki, (1870–1966) is widely credited with introducing Zen Buddhism to the West. He accompanied Soyen Shaku Roshi, the first Zen priest in the US (he spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893), as his translator in travels around the US in 1905.
His ground-breaking books include The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk, Introduction to Zen Buddhism, Zen and Japanese Culture and Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings. He taught for several years at Columbia University and was an influence on Carl Jung, Gary Snyder, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Alan Watts, Eric Fromm, Thomas Merton, Aldous Huxley, Arthur Waley, Christmas Humphreys, Martin Heidegger and many others.
This biographical film features rare footage of Dr. Suzuki in Japan and the US, including an electric conversation with Huston Smith from a 1950s NBC broadcast. Others appearing include: Inoue Zenjo, Donald Richie, Mihoko Okamura, Robert Aitken, Elsie Mitchell, Frederick Franck, Gary Snyder, Phil Cousineau, Marjorie Edel, Albert Stunkard.