2008 IBFF to Open in Mexico City

Festival runs October 29–November 9, 2008

Twenty-five Films from Over a Dozen Nations, Sixteen Mexico Premieres
Showcase Presentation of 1925 German/Indian Silent Masterpiece Light of Asia

2 October 2008
The 2008 International Buddhist Film Festival (IBFF) will take place in Mexico City, October 29–November 9, presenting twenty-five films from over a dozen nations, all in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles. Previously held in Amsterdam, Singapore and several US cities, this is the first time the California-based festival has traveled to Latin America.

IBFF’s presentation partner is Samaya Foundation, an independent cultural organization based in Mexico City. Its Executive Director, Leonides Guadarrama, a partner at FilmHouse, a leading Latin American independent film distributor, says “This is an historic opportunity for Mexico City, the largest city in this hemisphere. This is a chance for audiences here to explore a wide range of compelling works that draw on rich traditions from around the world to shed light on the key issues of our time: war and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, freedom and suffering, community, the environment … the whole Buddhist cultural emphasis on wisdom and compassion.” He adds, “and these films include some real surprises and lots of entertainment: comedies, classics, critical works, and some not so obviously Buddhist too.”

Among the special events will be a Showcase Presentation at the Centro Nacional de las Artes (Blas Galindo Auditorium) of Light of Asia, a rare 1925 German/Indian co-production based on Sir Edwin Arnold’s famous 19th century book. Also known by its Indian name Prem Sanyas, the film tells the story of the historic Prince Siddhartha and his journey to becoming Buddha, or awake. The silent black-and-white masterpiece features a cast of thousands of extras provided by the Maharajah of Jaipur, who also lent the production some of his legendary palaces and over two dozen bejewelled elephants. The film will be accompanied by a live original musical performance by a group led by sitarist Sidartha Siliceo, with noted Mexican vocalist Susana Zabaleta and Tibetan Buddhist monks from Gaden Jamgonling Monastery in Nepal.

The opening night screening at the prestigious Cineteca Nacional is the Mexico premiere of Dreaming Lhasa, the dramatic feature debut of award-winning documentary veterans from India, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche, Shadow Circus). Filmed on location in northern India with a backdrop of the Himalayas, the story follows a mystery that explores the full range of expression within the Tibetan exile communities there.

Other titles include Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, Enlightenment Guaranteed, The Cup, Dedication: Matthieu Ricard (with Monks in the Lab), In Search of Zhang Zhung and Milarepa. Several of the filmmakers are expected to attend. Other events include a seminar, Buddhism and the Emergence of a New Science by Ven. Tenzin Priyadarshi, in association with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a conference, The Encounter Between Science and Meditation presented by the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Ligmincha Institute featuring Lama Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Prof. Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, and Prof. Alejandro Chaoul Reich, PhD; and several other workshops, ceremonies and seminars. The full program and schedule are available at the official website.

Samaya Foundation is in strategic partnership with Buddhist Film Society, Inc. (BFS), the independent non-profit educational organization based in Oakland, California, that founded the IBFF in 2000. BFS’s Advisory Council includes Philip Glass, Alice Walker, Richard Gere, Maxine Hong Kingston, Huston Smith, Lisa Lu and Robert Thurman. The Mexico City IBFF comes after successful IBFF presentations in Los Angeles (2003), Washington, DC (2004) and San Francisco (2005) in the US, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2006), and Singapore (2007). IBFFs are being planned for New York, London, Hong Kong, Vancouver and Kyoto for 2009–10.

BFS, through its International Buddhist Film Festival and Festival Media distribution service, offers cinema as a vehicle for wider appreciation and better understanding of Buddhism by general audiences, particularly for the remarkable ethnic and cultural diversity evident among Buddhists worldwide today. “The filmmakers aren’t all Buddhists of course. They’re artists exploring issues and ideas that are in alignment with any of the wisdom traditions that value compassion. These films can change the way people see the world,” said IBFF’s Executive Director, Gaetano Kazuo Maida, who will be attending and presenting the Mexico premiere of Peace Is Every Step, his film about the Nobel Prize-nominated Vietnamese Zen teacher and author Thich Nhat Hanh.

Local media contact (bilingual) in Mexico City is .