“India’s First International Buddhist Film Festival Has Been A Great Success” —Aruna Vasudev
Aruna Vasudev needs no introduction. She wears many hats. A wellknown filmmaker, film-critic and a highly regarded authority on Asian cinema. A Ph.D in film studies from the University of Paris, she is Founder-President of NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema), Founder-Director of Cinefan, Festival of Asian Cinema, and Founder-Editor of Cinemaya, the Asian film quarterly besides being a Trustee of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust.
She has authored several books on Indian cinema, and has been a jury member of several prestigious international film festivals such as Cannes (Camera d’Or), Locarno, Thessaloniki, Singapore, Fajr (Tehran), Karlovy Vary, Istanbul, Antalya, Hawaii, Jeonju (Korea), and Tallinn (Estonia). She has been honoured with the Kalpana Chawla Excellence Award for Women.
She is the brain behind the Buddhist International Film festival (April 27 to May 1), which was held at New Delhi’s Azad Bhavan. Held in collaboration with the Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR), The first-ever such festival about Buddhism held in India, it received wide coverage in the media and attracted popular attention. Called ‘Inner Path: A Festival of Buddhist films, exhibition, philosophy and performances, it was unique in many respects.
Buddhist film festivals are organised worldwide. Since this was the first time it was organised in India, Aruna was keen that it became a grand success. The objective was to promote an understanding and appreciation of Buddhist art and culture.
One evening three months ago, Aruna and Suresh Jindal, well-known filmmaker and founder of Devki Foundation, got talking about doing something unique. Both are practising Buddhists, and came up with the idea of organising an international festival of Buddhist films.
Aruna and Suresh were able to put together a festival of fine Buddhist films. Aruna used her wide global contacts to acquire quality films. Organising such festivals is not easy. There is always the problem of getting financial backing. Says Aruna: “The Ministry of External Affairs gave us some help, then Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) helped us by allowing us to use their venue Azad Bhavan to show our films. We had a tremendous response from Delhiites. Not just film buffs, but also foreign diplomats and academicians from educational institutions came along with their families and friends. We had put up publicity posters at places like Khan Market, Majnu ka Tilla and other places. So the response was pretty good, especially from the younger generation. I was delighted to see so many college students flocking to see these films.”
When asked how she managed staging such an ambitious event at such a short notice, Aruna said smilingly: “I do whatever I feel strongly about and have passion for doing it. Then I do not care about money, energy and my efforts. I use my full potential to get great success but am very fortunate to have good friends like Suresh Jindal and others who always stood by giving full support. It is a teamwork.”
A total of 20 features, documentaries and shorts were screened during the festival. The films came from Argentina, South Korea, Sri Lanka, China and Japan. “Renowned film directors and film personalities from these countries came down to Delhi with their favourite films for screening at the festival. They had shown their interest and brought favouite films for our audience,” said Aruna with a sense of pride.
They included director Yoon Yong-jin of Hal, Sri Lankan film star Thumindu Dodantenna of Sankara, Among the Clouds by Edward A.Burger; the documentary’’ Peace is every step by Gaetano Kazuo Maida. Renowned director Hector Kumarasiri’s film Abinikmana had its world premier at this festival.
“We had films like Ladakh-A Cradle of Buddhism by Benoy Behl, and Religious Linkages Between Bhutan and Ladakh by Ramesh Sharma. Then Buddha (Un Buda) by Argentina director Diego Rafecas, Reincarnation (Abinikmana) Sri Lankan director Hector Kumarasiri, Trials of Kelo Rinpoche by Indian film director Ritu Sareen, and Tenzing Sonam, Hal by Korean director Yoon Yong-Jin and Shugendu Now by Japanese director Jean-Marc Abela and Mark Patrick Mcguire, Peace is Every Step, by American director Ga Etaneo Kazuo Maida, and. Amongst White Clouds by Chinese Director Edward Burger.”
Besides these quality films, there were philosophical discourse by a Buddhist scholar/practioner on different traditions of Buddhist philosophy every evening such asTibetan Buddhism and the Nalanda Tradition by Geshe Dorji Damdul, Director of Tibet House; Bodhidharma and Zen Buddhism by Professor Lokesh Chandra, International Academi of Indian Culture, New Delhi; Mindfulness in everyday life by Dharmacharaya Shantanu Seth, Ahimsa Trust and the Three Yanas by Venerable Sumati Sasana, spiritual programme coordinator, tushita centre. There was also a panel discussion by P professor Shashi Bala, scholar and author of several books on Buddhism.
Besides these films and discourses, there was also an exhibition of 100 photographs of Buddhist heritage in India. This was a unique exhibtion, as even a fraction of this wide coverage of the Buddhist heritage of some countries has never been attempted before. And the exhibition by famous filmmaker Benoy Behl on Buddhism attracted a great deal of attention.
Exults a delighted Aruna: “The objective of the festival to promote an understanding and appreciation of the art and philosophy of Buddhism together with the interaction of audiences with scholars and filmmakers was certainly achieved.”
By Santosh Mehta