Poetry in Motion Film Festival

In recognition of National Poetry Month, Buddhist Film Foundation joins California Film Institute to co-present a special film festival of works about acclaimed American poets.

“Poetry has always been at the heart of the Buddhist traditions,” said Gaetano Kazuo Maida, BFF executive director. “From the Buddha’s own stepmother Mahapajapati Gotami, to Nagarjuna, Milarepa, Rengetsu and Han Shan to Paul Reps, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, W.S. Merwin, Ko Un, Diane DiPrima, and Thich Nhat Hanh and so many others, Buddhist practitioners have expressed themselves in poems that inspire us to this day. Anyone can enter a celebration of poets and their poems of life, through these films.”

The six programs will run on consecutive Sundays from April 3 through April 17 at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California, and several of the filmmakers and leading poets will participate. Tickets are now on sale.


The Practice of the Wild: A Conversation with Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison
Directed by John J. Healey
USA / 2010 / English / 60 min
Sunday, April 3, 4:15 pm
In Person: Producer Will Hearst

[two older, bearded men in baseball caps, one with cane, walk with a light colored poodle on a grassy hill with verdant mountains and clouds in the background]Producer Will Hearst will present and discuss a rare screening of this film profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder. Along with Kerouac and Ginsberg, Snyder was a central figure of the Beat Generation, spent several years studying Zen in Japan, and has been living the life of a poet-ecologist in the Sierra Nevada since 1970. This lyrical film follows Snyder and fellow poet and novelist Jim Harrison (who passed away just last week) in dialogue while trekking along California’s Central Coast.

Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder
Directed by Christopher Felver
USA / 2013 / English / 82 min
Sunday, April 3, 7:00 pm
In Person: Director Christopher Felver

[black and white image of bearded man wearing a partial Statue of Liberty mask]Filmmaker and photographer Chris Felver will show and discuss his long-gestating portrait of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the iconic poet, artist, publisher and First Amendment activist, who helped forge many of the most significant cultural movements of the past sixty years. Beginning with the inception of City Lights Bookstore in 1953, Ferlinghetti has established himself as one of the most influential figures in American arts and letters.

Even Though the Whole World Is Burning
Directed by Stefan A. Schaefer
USA / 2014 / English / 85 min
Sunday, April 10, 4:15 pm
In Person: Introduction by Jane Hirshfield, poet and author

[blue shirted, white haired older man sitting amidst green tropical foliage speaks to camera while gesturing]Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin has won almost every major poetry prize that exists, including two Pulitzers. However, his legacy is based not only upon his writings, but also his singular environmental activism and land stewardship. Merwin has dedicated over thirty years to preserving and regenerating native plants and palms on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii. This film is a portrait of a vibrant, humorous and challenging subject widely considered a national treasure.

Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy
Directed by Haydn Reiss
USA / 2015 / English / 81 min
Sunday, April 10, 7:00 pm
In Person: Director Haydn Reiss

[[black and white image of man in dark framed glasses, dark shirt and jacket looks out frowning with house and grassy area, white fence, and flying flag in background]Featured at the Mill Valley Film Festival, this intimate portrait traces the life of poet Robert Bly, in his singular path from Minnesota farmer’s son, to radical anti-Vietnam War activist, to instigator and mentor of the 1990s men’s movement. This politically and spiritually engaged poet was one of the first to translate Pablo Neruda and Rumi, and his work with Joseph Campbell led to the unexpected pop culture phenomenon of Iron John.

BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez
Directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon
USA / 2015 / English / 90 min
Sunday, April 17, 4:15 pm
In Person: Introduction by Prartho Sereno, Poet Laureate of Marin County

[African-American woman with long curly brown hair and purple jacket speaks into microphone]For 80-year-old Sonia Sanchez, writing is both a personal and political act. She emerged as a seminal figure in the 1960s Black Arts Movement, raising her voice in the name of black culture, civil rights, women’s liberation, and peace. Maya Angelou called her “a lion in literature’s forest,” and in this spirited film we understand why.

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth
Directed by Pratibha Parmar
USA / 2013 / English / 90 min
Sunday, April 17, 7:00 pm
In Person: Director Pratibha Parmar

[African-American woman with short greying hair and magenta scarf and hanging earrings smiles to camera with framed images in background]This exquisite and intimate documentary tells the compelling story of an extraordinary woman’s journey from her birth in a paper-thin shack in the cotton fields of Georgia to her recognition as a key writer of 20th century America. Alice Walker’s early life unfolded in the midst of racism and poverty, and she made history as the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (The Color Purple). Her inspiring journey is also a story of a country and a people at the fault line of historical changes.

Please visit Smith Rafael Film Center for venue information and online ticket sales. Tickets are also available at the Rafael box office which opens one-half hour prior to the first showing of the day.