It’s A Wrap! IBFF 2017 Completes Runs in LA and the Bay Area

Packed houses at the Writers Guild Theater in LA and the Smith Rafael Film Center in the Bay Area welcomed IBFF 2017’s offering of films from seven nations.

Highlights included a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen featuring the concert documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, plus two new shorts from the team producing the documentary Roshi, about Leonard Cohen’s Zen teacher, Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Author Pico Iyer introduced the film in LA to a sold out opening night house, with a surprise impromptu appearance on stage by Jim Carrey, plus a prayer chant by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Khen Rinpoche Tsetan, and a performance by musicians Amy Correia and Peggy Baldwin; poet Jane Hirshfield did the honors at the Smith Rafael Film Center screening, and directors Lian Lunson (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man) and Don Farber and Carole Wilson (Roshi) participated in post-screening Q&As.

Director Mickey Lemle (Ram Dass Fierce Grace, Compassion In Exile) presented his new documentary, The Last Dalai Lama? to full houses at both venues, with Tibetan musician/composer Tenzin Choegyal in person at each, performing songs from the film’s score he wrote in collaboration with Philip Glass. Lemle announced the upcoming theatrical release of the film, opening in the San Francisco Bay area on July 7, with a special screening event on July 6, the Dalai Lama’s 82nd birthday, at the Smith Rafael Film Center.

IBFF 2017 presented the US premiere of the new dramatic feature from director Khyentse Norbu, Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait filmed on location in Bhutan; producer Denise Di Novi (Batman Returns, Catwoman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands), who is also a meditation teacher, introduced the film in LA, and author/performer/meditation teacher Wes “Scoop” Nisker introduced the film in the Bay Area. Buddhist Film Foundation has a special connection with the films of Norbu, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher who is also known as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, having presented the US premieres of his Travellers & Magicians and Vara, and distributing his first film, The Cup, on DVD.

Other films presented include Wandering, a dramatic feature from Thailand, by director and former monk Boonsong Nakphoo, with Rev. Heng Sure, abbot of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery introducing; Golden Kingdom, a drama filmed at a rural Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, with producer Jessica Ballard in person; dramatic feature Fukushima Mon Amour (aka Greetings from Fukushima), filmed on location in the radiation zone of Fukushima, Japan, by German director Doris Dörrie (Enlightenment Guaranteed, Cherry Blossoms, Men), with co-star Moshe Cohen on stage in San Rafael; the feature documentary Tzu Chi: Doing Good in the World, filmed on location in Taiwan, by director Babeth VanLoo, who attended with cinematographer Ashley James, and were joined on stage by members of Tzu Chi Foundation USA; and two shorter documentaries filmed in Myanmar, A Thousand Mothers, by Kim Shelton, who attended, playing with My Buddha Is Punk, by Andreas Hartmann, together introduced by filmmaker, BFF board member, and Yongon (Myanmar) Film School instructor Ellen Bruno (Satya, Sacrifice, Samsara, Split).

IBFF 2017 LA was copresented at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills by BuddhaFest LA and Lion’s Roar Foundation, with additional events there including meditation talks and conversations (Sharon Salzberg, Noah Levine, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Christian Wolf, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and Trudy Goodman), and a concert by Tibetan Buddhist nun Ani Choying Drolma, from Nepal.

This was the first time back in LA for the IBFF since its very first festival, in 2003, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

IBFF 2017 Bay Area was copresented by California Film Institute at its Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California. This was the fifth IBFF to run at this key Bay Area cinema, and the eighteenth IBFF since its founding.

The full schedule for both locations is available online.