Film Series

Pacific Film Archive presents:

Seeing Through the Screen: Buddhism and Film

PFA Theater: 2575 Bancroft Way @ Bowditch, Berkeley /Info:510-642-1412
Additional information:

Mondays at 3 p.m.
Lectures by Robert Sharf

Copresented by UC Berkeley Center for Buddhist Studies.

Taught by Professor Robert Sharf, director of the Group in Buddhist Studies, Seeing Through the Screen will, as the double entendre of its title suggests, be looking at Buddhism through film, and film through Buddhism — using the medium of film to explore various themes and issues in the study of Buddhism, and employing ideas culled from Buddhism to reflect back on the nature and power of film. In viewing a wide variety of international and domestic films, the class will consider such themes as the Buddhist notion of the "empty self," and the epistemic status of the viewing subject, the role of imagination and visualization in Buddhist meditation, and the role of projection and fantasy in cinematic representations of Buddhism. Like Film 50, this is an undergraduate course (offered in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures), open to the public as space permits. Advance tickets recommended.

January 24
Film (Alan Schneider, U.S., 1965)
Samuel Beckett wrote his only screenplay for Buster Keaton, a one-character drama that is "dark, witty, and fascinating." — Time Out

January 31
Waking Life (Richard Linklater, U.S., 2001)
"Richard Linklater's (Slacker) first animated work, a painterly extension of reality, is astoundingly lovely and touching...The interplay between words and animation is both haunting and startlingly witty." — David Denby, The New Yorker

February 7
After Life (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 1999)
Simple, serene, yet emotionally, vibrantly complex, Kore-eda describes After Life as "a film about memory, and also a film about what it means to make films." Unveiling the mysterious power of memory in re-creating our lives, passions, and private heavens. — Jason Sanders, S.F. Int'l Film Festival

February 14
Fearless (Peter Weir, U.S., 1993)
Inspired by the story of an airplane crash survivor, Max (Jeff Bridges), who is incapable of coping with life, finds comfort in another survivor, Carla (Rosie Perez). Weir describes, "when the aircraft crashes [Max] discovers a wonderful treasure: an almost ecstatic acceptance of death, a glimmer of eternity." — Berlin Film Festival

February 28
Enlightenment Guaranteed (Doris Dörrie, Germany, 2000)
Dörrie creates a sweetly comic and spiritually enlightened work about two brothers who travel to Japan for a retreat in a Zen monastery in hopes of getting their screwed-up lives back together. — Harvard Film Archive

March 7
Lost Horizon (Frank Capra, U.S., 1937)
After a plane crash in the Himalayas, a small group of civilians explore the fabled kingdom of Shangri-La, a seductive escape from the realities of World War II.

March 14
The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, U.S., 1999)
Since it's premier "in 1999, its strength as metaphor has only increased... The monopolization of information by vast corporations; the substitution of an agreed-on fiction, imposed from above; the sense that we have lost control not only of our fate but of our small sense of what's real-all these things can seem like part of ordinary life now." — Adam Gopnik, New Yorker

March 28
Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1953)
This simple, sad story of the gap between generations in a Japanese family revealed to Western viewers the poetic acuteness of Ozu's style. "Wonderful....One of the manifest miracles of cinema." — New Yorker

April 4
My Dinner With André (Louis Malle, U.S., 1981)
"It's like a mad tea party or a mad, modern Platonic dialogue about the meaning of life... Malle creat[es] the illusion that we are simply listening in on the dinnertime conversation of the playwright Wallace Shawn and the former avant-garde theater director André Gregory." — Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

April 11
Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? (Yong-Kyun Bae, South Korea, 1989)
Bae is an extraordinary stylist whose understanding of cinema's relationship to intuitive knowledge gives this film its revelatory quality, and shows us the promise of potential knowledge in everyday incidents.

April 18
Himalaya (Eric Valli, France/Switzerland/U.K./Nepal, 1999)
"Elemental, sweeping, and often majestic, this is both an engaging drama and a labor of love in tribute to the Buddhist, semi-nomadic people of the Dolpo, a remote region deep in the interior of the northwest Himalayas." — Wally Hammond, Time Out

April 25
The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche (Tenzing Sonam, Ritu Sarin, U.K., 1991)
A fascinating and warm look at a life of devotion, and the continuity of Tibetan culture in exile.

The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei (Christopher J. Hayden, U.S., 1993)
A documentary look at the extreme marathon training of monk Tanno Kakudo.  In fascinating detail the film depicts his death-defying fast, vegetarian training diet, handmade straw running shoes, and ritual feats of endurance.

May 2
Little Buddha (Bernardo Bertolucci, U.K./France, 1993)
Shot on location in Nepal and Bhutan, "Bertolucci's sincere, even rhapsodic, study of Buddhist history and modern-day reincarnation is a visual delight." — The Film Journal

May 9
Words of My Perfect Teacher (Lesley Ann Patten Canada, 2003)
Documentary filmmaker Patten turns the camera on her guru, Khyentse Norbu, one of the world's most admired Buddhist teachers, and accomplished filmmaker (The Cup). An honest, witty, autobiographical exploration of the human drive to be inspired. — Elan Mastai, Vancouver Int'l Film Festival 2003