Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Wesak International Film Festival 2011 (WIFF 2011) @ MTC, KL June 11~12 & 18~19

The Wesak International Film Festival 2011 (WIFF 2011)

Petaling Jaya (Sat May 7, 2011): Continuing from its previous successes in 2006 and 2008, the third installment of the Wesak International Film Festival (WIFF) will be organized on June 11-12 and 18-19, 2011 at the Malaysia Tourism Center (MTC), Kuala Lumpur.

This event is organized by four leading Buddhist organizations in Malaysia: Bandar Utama Buddhist Society, Buddhist Gem Fellowship, Nalanda Buddhist Society, and Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia. Another 15 other Buddhist societies in Malaysia are supporting organizations of this major event.

WIFF 2011 will again present Buddhist-themed and inspired cinema of all kinds: full-length movies, documentaries, animation, and children’s films. For WIFF 2011, a total of 19 Buddhist organizations in the Klang Valley have combined their resources to organize the event with one main objective: to create greater awareness of Buddhism among the general public through the medium of films.

A total of 18 films, comprising full-length movies, documentaries, and animation, will be screened over the two weekends in June. To cater for a crowd expected to be much bigger than in 2006 or 2008, the Organizers have booked three theatres at MTC for the event.

WIFF 2011 will be screening three full-length feature films. Enlightenment Guaranteed is an acclaimed Zen comedy by award winning director Doris Dorrie about two brothers searching for meaning in their lives by going to a Zen monastery in Tokyo, Japan.

Then there is Zen, a movie about Dogen, a Japanese Zen master, born in Kyoto in the 13th century and founder of the Soto school of Zen. Dogen, well-known for his extensive writings on Zen, traveled to China as a young monk to find his true master. Making his film debut in an authentic performance of Dogen is Nakamura Kantaro, the 19th generation Kabuki actor.

The third feature film Uppalavanna is about the compassion of a Buddhist nun set during the Sri Lankan civil war in 1989. It is a moving story that tells of how the Buddha’s teachings on kindness and forgiveness can be the antidote to fear and hatred, especially during very difficult times.

Besides the three full-length movies, WIFF will also feature a score of award winning documentaries. This includes the 2008 documentary Unmistaken Child directed by Nati Baratz which follows Geshe Tenzin Zopa’s search for the reincarnation of his beloved teacher, Geshe Lama Konchog, in Nepal. Unmistaken Child was selected for and aired on the award-winning Public Broadcasting Series (USA) Independent Lens in April 2010.

WIFF 2011 will also feature Bhutan: Taking the Middle Path to Happiness by Tom Vendetti about how Bhutan’s government creates “Gross National Happiness” (and not Gross National Product) for its people by promoting the four pillars of Environmental Preservation, Cultural Development, Economic Development through hydroelectric power, and Good Governance. The film won two Emmy Awards in 2009-2010

For an intimate portrait of the nuns of Kala Rongo Nunnery in remote northeastern Tibet, there is Bari Pearlman’s production of Daughters of Wisdom which depict how 300 nuns receive religious and educational training previously unavailable to women. The film won the Audience Award and Certificate of Excellence at the 2007 Brooklyn International Film Festival.

Dalai Lama Renaissance, winner of 12 film awards, and narrated by Hollywood actor Harrison Ford, is another documentary WIFF 2011 will screen in June. This film is the official selection of over 40 international film festivals, and has thus been screened in cinemas globally. The film tells the story of 40 Western thinkers who travel to Dharamsala in India in 1999 to discuss with The Dalai Lama on how to solve many of the world’s problems. The film features two of the starring quantum physicists from the hit theatrical documentary ‘What the Bleep Do We Know,’ Fred Alan Wolf and Amit Goswami.

Another documentary long awaited by many Malaysians is The Devotion of Matthieu Ricard, the story of Matthieu Ricard who left his native France and a promising career in cellular genetics to become a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in Nepal. He is now a translator, photographer and bestselling author (The Monk and the Philosopher, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill) and an active participant in scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain. He was nominated “the happiest man alive” by TIME magazine recently.

Filmed entirely in Burma, Dhamma Dana delves deep into the monastic tradition and reveals how the Burmese Buddhists find inner freedom. This film by Theodore Martland presents Buddhism with a serene rhythm, documenting a powerfully peaceful ancient tradition that few experience first hand. This film won the 2009 Queens International Film Festival in New York City, where it was selected as “Best Domestic Documentary.”

Another WIFF 2011 classic is Words of my Perfect Teacher, a poignant and hilarious tale of students who follow Khyentse Norbu - a Buddhist monk, film producer (The Cup and Travelers and Magicians) and a Dharma teacher who defies convention. Shot in the UK, Bhutan, Germany, Canada and US, the film features appearances by Benardo Bertolucci and Steven Segal and music by Sting, Joy Drop, Manu Chao, Eva Casidy, and Laur Fugere.

The life story of Dr Ambedkar is told in Dr David Blundell’s film Arising Light. A peer of Gandhi and Nehru, Ambedkar was born an untouchable who uplifted himself from his community by educating himself in the West to become India’s first Minister of Law. On October 14, 1956 Ambedkar embraced Buddhism with 500,000 followers.

Another interesting documentary is Gorkyeo Buddhist Paintings which is an exhibition of 108 Korean Buddhist Paintings from around the world held at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul in 2010. Produced by the Buddhist Television Network World, the film captures among them 61 paintings — 27 from Japanese, 10 from U.S., five from Europe, and 19 from Korean collections, including the famous “Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara,” by Hyeheo, currently housed at Japan’s Senso-ji temple, and paintings of Amitabha and Kshitigarbha.

WIFF 2011 will also screen two documentaries about Buddhism in America and Buddhism in Europe, produced by the Buddhist Television Network World. Both documentaries showcase the popularity of Buddhism in the West and this is clear from the 2008 Pew Religious Landscape Survey which states that Buddhism had climbed to the 3rd most practiced religion in America. Similarly, Buddhism has become a living religion in Europe.

Followers of world famous Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh will be happy to watch Plum Village about the meditation center he founded in the Dordogne, southern France. The film explores the beauty of this wonderful village where families and friends, lay practitioners and monastics, children and old parents, live together in peace and harmony, guided by precepts of mindfulness in their everyday life.

WIFF 2011 will also showcase a touching short story titled Little Note with themes of encouragement and resilience, inspiring everyone impacted by life’s uncertainties, to soldier on with hope and courage. Living with little wants in the countryside, Zhiren and his mother expressed their love and support for each other in a simple way - by exchanging little notes. These words of encouragement spurred their every step forward in life, helping them cast aside fear and despair in times of uncertainty.

The story of Angulimala, a ruthless killer who was about to kill his own mother but repented and later became enlightened after being taught by the Buddha is a story that tells us that even the worst of people can undo the faults and return to the right path. This short film is produced by Gemkids, a Sunday School initiative of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship.

WIFF 2011 will also feature Oil Lamp, an animated cartoon that clinched the first prize in the International Short Film Competition at the Vesak 2009 International Buddhist Film Festival in Sri Lanka. Produced by the Buddhist Institute Sunday Dhamma School of the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Kuala Lumpur, Oil Lamp tells the tale of a devotional offering of light to Buddha by an old beggar woman. The moral of the story is that it is not how much you give but how you give it.

A special attraction of WIFF 2011 will be a live performance by world renowned Tibetan Buddhist nun and singer Venerable Choying Drolma from Nepal whose songs have won rave reviews internationally. She will sing some of her best known songs from her various CDs that she has recorded over the years and. Her CD Recording include “Cho” in 1997 for Worldwide release by an American CD company, "Time" in 2007, "Selwa" in 1998, “Dancing Dakini” in 1999, “Choying” in 2000, “Moments Of Bliss” in 2004, “Smile” in 2005, and “Inner Peace” in 2006. Her songs and original music have also appeared on various albums, including “Head Massage” by Soul Flip. Details are available from her website:

As WIFF 2011 is a non-profit educational event, there is no entrance charge to the public to attend any of our screenings.


For details on the screening time, please refer to our website: or contact +603-7804 9154, or email

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