Now Showing

New Film About the Dalai Lama In Theaters Now

[poster with The Last Dalai Lama? in red type left of a black and white close up of an elderly man's head, against a dark background]The Last Dalai Lama?, the new film by director Mickey Lemle (Ram Dass Fierce Grace, Compassion In Exile), has been extended for a third consecutive week at two theaters in the San Francisco Bay area and will open in New York City on July 28.

The participating theaters are the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael (where a special opening event was held on the Dalai Lama’s birthday, July 6, with director Mickey Lemle attending, along with Tibetan musician Tsering Dorjee Bawa performing), and the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. The film will open in New York’s IFC Center on Friday, July 28. Other bookings around the country are expected to be announced shortly.

The film is a comprehensive update of the director’s groundbreaking Compassion in Exile (1991) profile of the Dalai Lama, with an 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. The Last Dalai Lama? was filmed on location in India and the US, and features vivid archival footage, with an original score by Philip Glass and Tenzin Choegyal.

The Last Dalai Lama? trailer.


New Film About Thich Nhat Hanh Premieres at SXSW

Walk With Me, by Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, will premiere at SXSW Film Festival in March.

Filmed over three years, in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village monastery in rural France, and on the road in the USA, the film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life. With unprecedented access, Walk With Me goes deep inside this international Zen Buddhist community. As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit of a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, voiced by Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Walk With Me trailer.


Golden Kingdom Expands to LA, NY and Portland

[young monk in dark red robes sits cross-legged on a wooden floor against a dark background with white golden kingdom text overhead]Golden Kingdom, the first dramatic feature filmed on location in Myanmar, expands to theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Portland after an extended four city run in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer.

This is a beautifully filmed neo-realist work featuring very young monks in a rural Buddhist monastery. They are suddenly left to their own devices when their abbot is called away during a time of violent conflict beyond the monastery’s simple and calm environment. There are echoes here of The Cup, Uncle Boonmee Who Could Recall His Past Lives, and The Silent Holy Stones, but the unique location in remote Shan State and historic timing of Golden Kingdom offer a compelling case for this breakthrough film.

Golden Kingdom has been screened at the Berlinale, Buddhist Film Festival in Europe, Vancouver International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, and other international film festivals, and was directed by American Brian Perkins in his feature film debut.

USA, Myanmar / Burmese with English subtitles / 103 min

Review in Variety
Review in Hollywood Reporter

Golden Kingdom trailer.


Sweet Bean Opens in Select US Cities March 18

[Sweet Bean film poster with Japanese teen-ager in blue school uniform, elderly woman with glasses in hat and checked coat, and young man in white head scarf and apron with grey shirt, gazing upward with cherry blossoms in background and soft, light purple edge at top and bottom]Sweet Bean is the new film from acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest, IBFF Showcase 2013), opening in selected US cities on March 18, 2016.

Based on the novel An (“sweet red bean paste”) by Durian Sukegawa, the film features Tokue (a quietly powerful performance by famed Japanese actress Kirin Kiki), an elderly woman who offers to help Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase), a young cook of dorayaki (bean paste pancake, a much loved confection in Japan), and there’s just enough plot to take us through some very deep waters of Japanese culture.

All is not well with Sentaro’s life and it shows in his business. Even schoolgirl Wakana (played by Kirin Kiki’s real granddaughter Kyara Uchida) can tell he’s not happy, and she has her own difficult homelife. Tokue is a breath of fresh air in both their lives, and the pastries benefit from the secret recipe Tokue teaches him. The business comes alive, but secrets slip out and undermine everything they’ve been working for.

This film shares something of cinema treasures Tampopo, Cherry Blossoms, and Kawase’s earlier The Mourning Forest, and as with Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog, which isn’t really about dogs, Sweet Bean is about far more than pastries.

  • Official Selection Cannes Film Festival
  • Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival

Opens at NY’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, March 18; Landmark Midtown Art Cinema (Atlanta), April 1; Smith Rafael Film Center (CA), April 8; SF’s Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, April 8; and LA’s Laemmle Theaters, April 8.

For full theater list and more information, including trailer, visit the official website.


Laurie Anderson Film Heart of a Dog Opens in the US

After critical acclaim at key film festivals around the world including Venice, Toronto, Telluride, and New York, Laurie Anderson’s new film, Heart of a Dog, is in limited national theatrical release in the US.

The film opens at New York City’s Film Forum on October 21, 2015, and then moves to the west coast: Los Angeles, November 6; and San Francisco, November 13.

Laurie Anderson, best known for her theatrical events with music and text, has made a very personal yet universal meditation on memory, loss, love and death. She wrote and directed, and shot much of this film herself, and it is suffused with a feeling of attention and reflection. The film is driven not by a dramatic narrative but by associations, connections, many creative leaps of imagination, and… a dog. There is a soundtrack album as well, available on CD and through iTunes.

Other venues are being announced as they are secured; more information, reviews and all screening dates and locations are at the official website.


Buddhist Film Foundation Co-presents Two New Films at Upcoming Screenings

Buddhist Film Foundation is co-presenting two new films screening soon at upcoming 2015 international film festivals. Golden Kingdom, a dramatic feature, will be presented at the Vancouver International Film Festival (September 24–October 9), Buddhist Film Festival in Europe (October 2–4) and the Mill Valley Film Festival (October 8–18 ). The much anticipated documentary Robert Bly—A Thousand Years of Joy will be premiering at the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 10.

Golden Kingdom, directed by American filmmaker Brian Perkins, is the first dramatic feature filmed on location in the “new” Myanmar. It is a visually compelling neorealist/magic realism work featuring very young monks at a Shan State monastery. Simple yet mysterious, spare but vivid, this might be considered kin to Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Winter Cicadas, Uppalavanna, and Buddha’s Lost Children, all recent well-told tales from Asia with Buddhist settings. Its world premiere was at Berlinale 2015.

Robert Bly—A Thousand Years of Joy is filmmaker Haydn Reiss’ fourth work with Robert Bly, an outstanding American poet, peace activist and culture bearer. This comprehensive profile joins Reiss’ earlier Rumi—Poet of the Heart, Every War Has Two Losers, and Robert Bly and William Stafford—A Literary Friendship to present a full picture of one of America’s most compelling commentators of the past three quarters of a century.

Golden Kingdom official website
Robert Bly—A Thousand Years of Joy official website

Vancouver International Film Festival
Buddhist Film Festival in Europe
Mill Valley Film Festival


Vara: A Blessing Now Streaming Online

[vara a blessing text with smiling woman in dark red blouse and medium blue sari smiles gazing upward at stream of light while sitting on a tree branch with young man looking up at her]Vara: A Blessing, the new film from director Khyentse Norbu (The Cup, Travellers & Magicians) is screening in theaters in several cities in North America this summer, including a Buddhist Film Foundation co-presentation on July 20, 2015 in San Rafael, CA.

The official online release on July 24 brings the film to viewers across the country via Amazon and iTunes; international access will be available soon on the film’s website.

The film has screened in numerous film festivals around the world, premiering as the Opening Night Presentation at Busan International Film Festival and garnering the Best Feature Film award at Tribeca Film Festival’s online competition.

Set against the lush countryside in an Indian village not yet caught up to the modern world, Vara: A Blessing, intertwines vivid dreamworlds of Hindu gods, classical bharatanatyam dance, and music. It’s a timeless story of love and devotion. A young woman named Lila (Shahana Goswani) and her mother Vinata (Geeta Chandran), a temple dancer wed to a Hindu god, find themselves on the fringes of society, struggling to make ends meet. Shyam (Devesh Ranjan), a low-caste village boy with dreams of becoming a sculptor in the city, asks Lila to model for him. Lila agrees, even though she knows that if they are discovered, both their lives will be in jeopardy.

Writer-director Khyentse Norbu is also known to many as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, a highly regarded Tibetan Buddhist teacher. His rigorous classical Buddhist training, nonsectarian approach, and passion for filmmaking make him one of the most provocative figures in Buddhism today. He began his film career as a technical advisor to renowned director Bernardo Bertolucci during the making of Little Buddha (in which he also has a small role), and began writing his first screenplay while in Bodhgaya, India. He keeps an extraordinarily active teaching schedule around the world, and supervises Dzongsar Monastery in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, retreat centers in Bhutan, and Buddhist colleges in India and Bhutan. Through Siddhartha’s Intent International, he has established and maintains teaching and practice centers in Australia, Canada, the United States, and he founded and chairs three nonprofit organizations, Khyentse Foundation, Lotus Outreach, and 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.

The film’s cinematographer Bradford Young is best known for his work on the Academy Award-winning Selma, and he was awarded the cinematography prize at Sundance 2013 for his work on two films at the festival, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Mother of George. Aradhana Seth, a veteran of many films including The Bourne Supremacy and The Darjeeling Limited, was the production designer, and famed director Wang Kar Wai’s editor, William Chang, took on those duties for this film.

The Hollywood Reporter called Vara: A Blessing “transcendence in action… a great visual feast.” Variety said “Ravishing visuals and an abundance of Indian dance and music provide a sensory tonic in Khyentse Norbu’s tale of forbidden love.”

Official film website.


Monk With A Camera Now in Limited Theatrical Release in US

["Dandy. Playboy. Seeker." headline above image of back of maroon-robed monk holding prayer beads and gazing at a large framed photograph of a tree on the wall of a grey colored room]This portrait of Nicholas Vreeland, now the abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, was co-presented by Buddhist Film Foundation at the Smith Rafael Film Center in December 2014. The film examines a life that encompasses the highest levels of fashion, photography, diplomacy, and Buddhism.

Nicholas (Nicky) Vreeland walked away from a life of privilege to become a monk. The son of a US ambassador, grandson of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and a talented photographer (who apprenticed with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn), Vreeland spent many years in India pursuing his Buddhist ideals. He returned to photography for fundraising, to help his community of monks rebuild the historic Rato Monastery, a project that inspired the Dalai Lama to bestow on him a title unprecedented for any Westerner. This fascinating documentary follows Vreeland’s journey from photographer to monk and his attempt to merge East and West in bringing happiness and compassion to the world. Featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Richard Gere, and Khyongla Rinpoche.

Directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara.
USA / 2014 / 90 min

Official film website.


American Rimpoche Premieres in New York

[sepia tone image of young boy with shaved head and in robes, seated, with older figure in background]A film about the well-known Tibetan Buddhist teacher Gelek Rimpoche, American Rimpoche, premieres June 7, 2014, at the Rubin Museum of Art, with director Nikki Appino, composer Philip Glass, and Gelek Rimpoche in conversation after the screening.

Gelek Rimpoche was born into a privileged world in a Tibet that no longer exists, and he has lived an extraordinary life spanning continents, customs, and cultures. Framed by archival photos of old Tibet taken by Rimpoche’s father in the 1930s and ’40s, the film traverses the link between one man’s job as a modern spiritual teacher and the impact of Tibet’s myths and practices on Americans seeking direction in an increasingly complex world.

Also appearing in the film are Robert Thurman, Melvyn Goldstein, Donald Lopez, and Philip Glass.

Official film website.
For information and tickets for the Rubin Museum of Art premiere, visit the museum’s website.


Digital Dharma First Film to Screen at Kimmel Center

[Digital Dharma film poster (one man's mission to save a culture) with image of E. Gene Smith and illustration of robed men and computer]Digital Dharma, featuring Gene Smith, is the first film to be screened to the public at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia.

Hosted by the Philadelphia Asian American Film & Filmmakers and sponsored by the Wyncote Foundation and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, the screening takes place September 26 at 7:00 pm.

Digital Dharma chronicles the extraordinary efforts by American Gene Smith, a Morman and a pacifist, to rescue the written legacy of Tibetan culture. His heroic forty year mission to find, preserve, and ultimately digitize and translate over 20,000 volumes of literature, medicine, history, poetry, and Buddhist works continues under the auspices of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Director Dafna Yachin will attend, and The Tibetan Association of Philadelphia will perform song and dance before the screening. IBFF presented the Canadian premiere of the film at IBFF 2013 VANCOUVER and its Bay Area premiere at the IBFF Showcase 2013 at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California. The film will be part of the program at the upcoming Buddhist Film Festival Europe in Amsterdam, Oct. 4–6.

Official film website.


Samsara Opens in Theaters Across the US

[film poster for Samsara]Samsara reunites filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, whose award winning films Baraka and Chronos brought a new visual and musical artistry to theaters. Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Conceived as a guided meditation on the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, Samsara is audiovisual poetry.

Filmed over a period of five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, and brilliantly shot on 70mm film, Samsara transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, Samsara subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary. It encourages our own interpretations, inspired by breathtaking images and transcendent music that infuses the ancient with the modern. Samsara explores the wonders of our world, from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience, and illuminating the links between humanity and the rest of nature.

Official film website.
Find theaters.
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Crazy Wisdom Held Over in the Bay Area

[Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wearing a cowboy hat in Crazy Wisdom]Fresh from screenings at IBFFs in Bangkok, London, Hong Kong and in theaters around the country, Crazy Wisdom is being held over at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater through July 29, and then at Berkeley’s Elmwood Theater through August 2, 2012.

This is the long-awaited feature documentary that explores the life, teachings, and “crazy wisdom” of the late Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Raised and trained in the rigorous Tibetan monastic tradition, Trungpa shattered preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave—he openly smoked, drank, and had intimate relations with students—yet his teachings are recognized as authentic, vast, and influential. Trungpa taught Buddhism as though it were a matter of life and death. Allen Ginsberg considered him his guru; Thomas Merton wanted to write a book with him; Joni Mitchell wrote a song about him. Filmed in the UK, Tibet, Canada, and the US, twenty years after Trungpa’s death, with unprecedented access and exclusive archival material.

Crazy Wisdom trailer.

Roxie Theater
3117 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415.863.1087

Elmwood Theater
2966 College Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705
510.433.9730


My Reincarnation on POV

Namkai Norbu Rinpoche and his son YeshiThe 25th season of the PBS series POV opens on June 21, 2012 with the broadcast of Jennifer Fox’s My Reincarnation (check local listings for the exact time in your area). This film about Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and his son Yeshi has been seen in over 20 countries, with a theatrical release in the US that has reached over 60 cities to date.

Working with over a thousand hours of remarkable footage taken over an unprecedented twenty year span with extraordinary access to Tibetan Buddhist teacher Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, My Reincarnation is the intimate story of a father and son, tradition and change, dreams and realities, destiny and desire, and Tibetan Buddhism in the contemporary world.

Director Jennifer Fox is a veteran world-class filmmaker with a number of award-winning productions to her credit including Beirut: The Last Home Movie, An American Love Story and Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman.

Official film website.


My Reincarnation Held Over in San Francisco

Film poster for My Reincarnation by Jennifer FoxMy Reincarnation, the new film by award-winning director Jennifer Fox, is held over in the San Francisco Bay area and is now booked in 30 cities.

The film continues in New York at Cinema Village and in several other cities around the country. Over twenty cities have booked the film for December and January.

Working with over a thousand hours of remarkable footage taken over an unprecedented twenty year span with extraordinary access to Tibetan Buddhist teacher Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, My Reincarnation is the intimate story of a father and son, tradition and change, dreams and realities, destiny and desire, and Tibetan Buddhism in the contemporary world.

Director Jennifer Fox is a veteran world-class filmmaker with a number of award-winning productions to her credit including Beirut: The Last Home Movie, An American Love Story and Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman.

Cinema Village
22 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10003
212.924.3363

Official film website.


Summer Pasture

Nominated for a 2010 Spirit Award: Truer Than Fiction

Summer Pasture opens in LA on Friday, September 16, 2011 at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3. Filmed on location in eastern Tibet, this feature-length documentary will be qualified for consideration for a documentary Academy Award.

For screening times and theater location, visit Laemmle Theatres.

The film is a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of a young couple and their infant daughter during a time of great transition. Locho and Yama are nomadic herders who carve their existence from the land as their ancestors have for generations. But now, as traditional nomadic life confronts rapid modernization, Summer Pasture captures a family at a crossroads, ultimately revealing the profound sacrifice they will make to ensure their daughter’s future.

The filmmakers will be in attendance at many screenings. For venues, screening times and tickets, visit the official website.

Summer Pasture
a film by Lynn True, Nelson Walker and Tsering Perlo
USA, China, Tibet / 2010 / 85 min / Tibetan with English subtitles

Summer Pasture is a production of the Kham Film Project, an organization of American and Tibetan filmmakers working together on documentary and participatory video projects that convey contemporary stories and experiences from inside Tibet.

For more information about the film and to learn about their other projects in Tibet, please visit khamfilmproject.org
Join them on FaceBook


Uncle Boonmee

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Begins US Release

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the new film from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is still in US theaters over four months after its release. The film began its US theatrical release March 4, 2011 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, as part of the San Francisco Film Society’s SFFS Screen series. It has already grossed more than the director’s previous film, Syndromes and a Century.

The 2010 Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or winner is a dreamlike drama woven around the recollections of an old man in the countryside. The film has deep roots in Thai pop cultural history, and director Weerasethakul (Syndromes and a Century) mixes in references to old Thai TV, comic books and classic Thai cinema along with moments of surreal humor. The performances by lead actors Thanapat Saisaymar (as Uncle Boonmee) and Jenjira Pongpas are riveting, and the film immerses us in the confusion, wonder and curiosity of a spiritual seeker.

The film had its West Coast premiere as part of IBFF Showcase 2010 at the Smith Rafael Film Center in December, after its US premiere at the New York Film Festival.


Lhamo, one of the characters of Tibet In Song explaining the costume which her grandmother sent from Tibet

Tibet in Song in US Release

Tibet in Song is both a celebration of traditional Tibetan folk music and a harrowing journey into the past fifty years of cultural repression inside Chinese-controlled Tibet. Director and former Tibetan political prisoner, Ngawang Choephel, weaves a story of beauty, pain, brutality and resilience, introducing Tibet to the world in a way never before seen on film.

“An incredible achievement” –Annie Lennox

Just completing a four week run at New York’s Cinema Village, the film is now in national release in the US. For locations, screening times and ticket information, visit the official website.

Director and producer Ngawang Choepel was arrested in Tibet on charges of espionage by Chinese authorities in 1995. Accused of collecting sensitive material on China, thereby endangering its national security, he was sentenced to eighteen years in prison, serving nearly seven years before his highly publicized release in 2002. Tibet in Song is Ngawang’s story, but it also gives voice to the thousands of Tibetans engaged in the fight for the life of their cultural heritage.

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE-Documentary: Sundance Film Festival
BEST DOCUMENTARY: Calgary International Film Festival
EMERGING DIRECTOR AWARD-Documentary Feature: Asian American International Film Festival
AUDIENCE AWARD-Watch Docs: International Human Rights Film Festival
SPECIAL JURY MENTION-Watch Docs: International Human Rights Film Festival
WINNER: Cine Golden Eagle Award


The Sun Behind the Clouds in US Release

After sold out screenings in the San Francisco Bay area, The Sun Behind the Clouds, the new film from directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (Dreaming Lhasa) is now in national release in the US. For theaters, screening times, filmmaker appearances and tickets, go to the official film website.

“Essential viewing for anyone who cares about the fate of the mountain region and the legacy of the Dalai Lama… The film is notable for its focus on an extraordinary year in Tibet’s history and on Tibetans themselves—historians, writers, activists, all eloquent, impassioned and living in exile.” –Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

A welcome departure from many previous films about the decades-long friction between Tibet and China… provides a two-sided view of the complex political and social dynamics within and outside Tibet. ”–Robert Koehler, Variety

BEST OF THE FEST: Palm Springs International Film Festival
WINNER: Vaclav Havel Award, One World Film Festival, Prague
WINNER: Silver Conch, Mumbai International Film Festival
CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION: Human Rights Watch Film Festival, London

Directed by veteran Tibetan filmmakers Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin (Dreaming Lhasa, The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche), The Sun Behind The Clouds compellingly updates the struggle for Tibetan independence by focusing on the March 2008 demonstrations against Chinese rule (the largest ever since the 1959 take-over of that nation), and the split among Tibetans themselves regarding the most effective approach to Chinese intransigence. This is the first film to show the Dalai Lama addressing the political complexity of the Tibet issue, both in his homeland and within the exile community. The Dalai Lama, living in northern India, is interviewed extensively during this turbulent 50th anniversary of exile year and given the opportunity to explicate his “Middle Way Approach,” a compromise position essentially giving up the goal of Tibet’s independence in exchange for cultural and social autonomy. A younger generation of Tibetans who are devoted to the Dalai Lama, but who nonetheless feel his solution is ineffective, appear in the film, detailing their more militant position.

UK, 2009, 79 min, English, Tibetan and Mandarin with English subtitles
White Crane Films official film website
US Theatrical Distributor:
Balcony Releasing
International Sales Agent: CatNDocs