Opening Night Film!

HEMA HEMA: SING ME A SONG WHILE I WAIT, directed by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, 88 minutes.

Somewhere deep in a forest of Bhutan, there is a gathering every twelve years of men and women chosen by the Old Man to enjoy a few days of anonymity. Masked silhouettes participate in rituals, performances and dances. Faceless, the men and the women allow themselves to be lascivious, playful and daring. One man attends this event for the first time and enters the experience like a new born. He stumbles clumsily through the first days, but quickly adapts, and when he spots Red Wrathful, he becomes totally intoxicated with her. But his desire will lead him down a dangerous path.

THE DEPARTURE, directed by Lana Wilson, 88 minutes. 

Ittetsu Nemoto, a former punk-turned-Buddhist priest in Japan, has made a career out of helping suicidal people find reasons to live. But this work has come increasingly at the cost of his own family and health, as he refuses to draw lines between those he counsels and himself.

AKONG: A REMARKABLE LIFE, directed by Chico Dall'Inha, 96 minutes.

In 1959 a dramatic ten month escape from Tibet through the Himalayas would change the course of his life - and the lives of many thousands of people around the world.

MY BUDDHA IS PUNK, directed by Andreas Hartmann, 68 minutes. 

Twenty-five-year-old Burmese punk musician Kyaw Kyaw is on a mission. He and his band, The Rebel Riot, travel Myanmar playing music and organizing demonstrations to raise awareness about the persecution of the country’s ethnic minorities. The band’s unique blend of ideals—one part Buddhist compassion, two parts punk rock rebellion—fuels their quest for equality and freedom for all in contemporary Myanmar.

Through a Different Lens: Revisiting a Classic in a New Context.

OPENING NIGHT, directed by John Cassavetes, 144 minutes.

While in the midst of rehearsals for her latest play, Broadway actor Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) witnesses the accidental death of an adoring young fan, after which she begins to confront the chaos of her own life. John Cassavetes lays bare the drama of a performer who, at great personal cost, makes a part her own.

While on the surface, the film makes no reference to Buddhism, it is one of the greatest metaphors for identity driven ego ever seen on film. The kindness expressed towards Rowlands’ tremendous suffering perfectly expresses the central core of Buddhism, echoing His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s famous remark, “My religion is kindness.”

GOLDEN KINGDOM, directed by Brian Perkins, 104 minutes. 

Golden Kingdom directly by Brian Perkins, is about four orphan boys, novice monks living in a Buddhist monastery in a remote part of Northeast Myanmar. The head monk departs on a long journey from which he may never return, leaving the boys alone in the middle of the forest. Once the boys are on their own, strange, magical occurrences begin to pass. One young monk, Witazara realizes he must protect the three other boys throughout this series of bizarre events, which threaten to unravel the fabric of the young monks' reality.

THE NEXT GUARDIAN, directed by Arun Bhattarai and Dorottya Zurbó, 75 minutes.

Brother and sister Gyembo and Tashi are normal teenagers. They love soccer and their phones. In their Himalayan village, their father oversees a Buddhist temple that has been in the family for generations. He hopes his son will one day take over his duties. He would prefer that Gyembo leave his modern English-language school in favor of a monk school. In this thoughtful and tender portrait of a Bhutanese family, the generation gap is as large as their love for one another.

WHY NOT NOW! ALAN WATTS, directed by Mark Watts, 50 minutes.

A documentary about the life and works of Alan Watts, the charismatic author and speaker who brought Eastern thought into popular culture in the 60’s in the US. The film follows his life-journey and philosophy as it emerged and was embraced by the youth of the 60s counter-culture and subsequent generations.

PAINTING PEACE: THE ART & LIFE OF KAZUAKI TANAHASHI, directed by Babeth VanLoo, 87 minutes.

"When I write, I am a writer; when I paint, I paint", Kazuaki Tanahashi - artist, zen teacher, writer, calligrapher and peace-activist. His translations of Dogen, the 13th century Japanese philosopher, are honored worldwide by scholars. His exhibitions and workshops gained international acclaim and he created the Foundation ‘A World Without Armies’.

This documentary film sets out to discover the driving force behind Tanahashi’s art and peace work, the relationship with his father, and his teacher Morihei Ueshiba Osensei, the founder of Aikido. We witness exchanges with artists and peacemakers and the birth of his materials, ink and brushes, made by hand. Tanahashi’s art and his life, an eternal flame of peace, are One.


Mark Elliott: A Retrospective

BAFF is honored to recognize Mark Elliott’s contribution to Buddhist film by featuring a retrospective of his 40 years of film-making. His films contain a wealth of insight into the migration of Buddhism from the East to West and offer a first-hand immersion into Buddhist values and wisdom. Mr. Elliott will be present for a discussion and Q&A after the film.

Short Films


Discovering Elegance

"Discovering elegance is the way of the warrior. Through gentleness and discipline, such a warrior brings a sense of harmony to everyday life."

Directed by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In it, he demonstrates the art of oriental design, calligraphy, flower arrangement, and object placement in preparing an environmental art exhibit at the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art in 1981.

The film will be followed directly by a live ikebana performance art by Sensei, Alexandra Shenpen.

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Shorts Block 1

The practice of Buddhism is just as multi-faceted as the films presented here. From seven distinct filmmakers we see pink and orange robed nuns in Myanmar, the poetic call to action against self-immolation, a simple demonstration of our planet's insignificance, the freedom aspect of creativity demonstrated by artist and teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, the beauty of impermanence, and a topsy-turny bear narrated by Alan Watts.

A THOUSAND MOTHERS - directed by Kim Shelton

LIGHT FOR FREEDOM - directed by Guillermo de la Rosa

WATCHING - directed by Yuanyuan Huang

EVERYTHING - directed by David O'Reilly

ART AND WISDOM - directed by Laura Weiss

QUICK SAND - directed by Jacob Wise

POSITIVE INSIGNIFICANCE - directed by Nick Simon

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Shorts Block 2 "Mother"

Bold, complex, unparalleled and powerful - our relationship with our mother is at its least fodder for conversation and growth. These short films from Brooklyn to China, depict the complex nature of this universal relationship. 

WHY CAN'T WE BE A FAMILY AGAIN? - directed by Murray Nossel 


MOTHER'S SONG - directed by Matty Brown

MOTHER - directed by Wu-Ching Chang