Alive Mind Cinema Festival

 

Gesar Bard's Tale

As a boy, Dawa was an illiterate Tibetan nomad whose life revolved around herding yaks. At 13, his life changed: through a series of visions, Dawa acquired the gift of telling the epic story of Tibet’s King Gesar. Now, at 35, Dawa receives a salary from the government as a guardian of national cultural heritage and is regarded as a holy man by his community. When an earthquake reduces his hometown to rubble, redevelopment of the region takes a giant leap forward. In the midst of such seismic shifts, Dawa seeks healing from King Gesar and other divine protectors of the land.

Faith Connections

CRITIC’S PICK – Village Voice

"A personal, yet profoundly universal, cinematic essay that interweaves five disparate tales into a meditative, entertaining and provocative tapestry." - Saibal Chatterjee, BBC

 


Filmmaker Pan Nalin (Valley of Flowers, Samsara) travels to the Kumbh Mela, the largest religious convergence in the world on the bank of the Ganges. There, he encounters remarkable men of mind and meditation, many contemplating an inextricable dilemma: to embrace the world or to renounce it?  Faith Connections brings to life the personal stories behind a scrappy young runaway boy, a mother desperately looking for her stolen son, and a yogi who is raising an abandoned baby, along with a Sadhu and an ascetic who keeps his calm by smoking cannabis. These stories are framed against a background of a million pilgrims and their spectacular display of devotion.

 


 ABOUT KUMBH MELA


Kumbh Mela is one of the most extraordinary displays of faith on Earth: a spectacular journey drawing tens of millions of people, taking place once every twelve years.  One such year is 2013.

This Hindu pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at the Triveni Sangama. In Hindu tradition Triveni Sangama is the “confluence” of three rivers. Sangama is the Sanskrit word for confluence. The point of confluence is a sacred place for Hindus. A bath here is said to wash away all of one’s sins and free one from the cycle of rebirth.

Kumbh means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Hindi. It is also believed in Hindu mythology — drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh carried by gods after the sea was churned. The festival is billed as the “biggest gathering on Earth.” An estimated four to five million pilgrims bathe on the most auspicious day. The total number of pilgrims for the entire duration of the fair is considered to be between 90 to 100 million.

Sunrise/Sunset

The daily life of the Dalai Lama is brought home with remarkable intimacy in SUNRISE/SUNSET. Granted total access to His Holiness for 24 hours, this is a day in the life of the Dalai Lama from when he wakes up at 3AM until his bedtime at dusk. Starting with his morning fitness routine and continuing on through the private audiences, press conferences, and blessings he imparts every day, it is a comprehensive and compassionate document of his everyday habits. As the sun begins to set, and with his duties completed, the Dalai Lama sits down with the filmmakers for a wide ranging interview covering topics related to the essence of the Universe, the gap between rich and poor, and the role an individual has to play in religion and contemporary society.

Breath Of The Gods

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In BREATH OF THE GODS, director Jan Schmidt-Garre goes in search of the origins of Modern Yoga, which is practiced by tens of millions of people throughout the world, and originated in the early 20th century through the teachings of Indian savant T. Krishnamacharya.


The film features major names of Yoga including Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar. Jan Schmidt-Garre investigates the transformation of Yoga from its introduction to Western culture in the 19th century, when the practice was met with skepticism, to its widespread acceptance gained through Krishnamacharya's teaching. While Yoga today is a billion-dollar industry with many devotees, this film presents the history of an ancient, sacred tradition with roots going back to the god Shiva.

For anybody curious about the roots of Modern Yoga as practiced today, this film provides an in-depth history, placing the practice of yoga in a spiritual context, the practice of which can lead to union with the cosmic Self.

When The Iron Bird Flies

'When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the face of the earth.' - Guru Padmasambhava of Tibet, 8th century

In 1959, the Chinese invasion of Tibet threw open the doors to the mysterious realm of Tibetan Buddhism. Suddenly, this ancient tradition was thrust out of it's cloistered society into the mainstream of western culture. Fifty years later, Tibetan Buddhist teachers trained in practices nurtured in monastaries and caves in the Himalayas are jetting around the world, presenting the words of the Buddha to rooms full of international lay practitioners who are hungry for a true spiritual path.

When the Iron Bird Flies traces the astounding path of one of the world’s great spiritual traditions from the caves of Tibet to the mainstream of western culture and asks: In these increasingly chaotic modern times, can these age old teachings help us find genuine happiness and create a saner, more compassionate 21st century world?

"A vivid and engaging account of the movement of the Buddha Dharma... Viewers hearts will have been opened and perhaps melted by the uplifting gift of genuine spirituality as it folows from teacher to student in a pattern free of time, showing us the way to go beyond the suffering and upheavals of our days and years." - Light of Consciousness

Crazy Wisdom

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Buddhism permeates popular culture worldwide - we speak casually of good parking karma, Samsara is a perfume, and Nirvana is a rock band.  A recent survey by Germany's Der Spiegel revealed that Germans like the Dalai Lama more than their native-born Pope Benedict XVI; the biggest Buddhist monastery outside of Asia is in France, and Tibetan Buddhism is doubling its numbers faster than any other religion in Australia and the U.S.A.  How did this happen?

Crazy Wisdom explores this through the story of Chogyam Trungpa, the brilliant "bad boy of Buddhism," who was pivotal in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West.  Trungpa shattered our preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave.  Born in Tibet, recognized as an exceptional reincarnate lama and trained in the rigorous monastic tradition, Trungpa fled his homeland during the Chinese Communist invasion.  In Britain, realizing a cultural gap prevented his students from any deep understanding of Buddhism, he renounced his vows, eloped with a sixteen year-old, and lived as a westerner.  In the U.S., he openly drank alcohol and had intimate relations with students. Was this crazy wisdom?

With unprecedented access to Trungpa's inner circle and exclusive never-before-seen archival material, Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him, and attempts to set the record straight.

Yangsi

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An intimate portrait of a young Tibetan boy who is recognized as the reincarnation of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of the most revered Tibetan Buddhist masters of the twentieth century. He is known as The Yangsi, ‘the one who has come again into existence’.
Providing a unique window into the world of Tibetan Buddhism, this film is a coming of age story with universal themes, made over a fourteen year period by Mark Elliott, an acclaimed film maker and longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism.

Narrated by Yangsi Rinpoche, the young teacher gives a first person account of his experience of growing up in, and coming to terms with, his unique inheritance. Beginning with his enthronement at age four before a crowd of fifteen thousand people in Kathmandu, Nepal, he is placed in the care of the previous Khyentse Rinpoche’s regent, Rabjam Rinpoche at Shechen monastery. With unprecedented access, the film chronicles his life during his training in Tibetan philosophy and various rituals, along with learning English, intimate family visits, and meetings with masters within (and without) of his lineage.

Filmed largely in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and in Nepal, Yangsi presents everyday events in a reincarnation’s life, where a mother’s love plays as important a role as high tantric empowerments; where tradition is challenged by modernity; and where human relationships are as vital as study. And where doubt challenges devotion when having to live up to great expectations.

“Yangsi’ follows this process up to the age of eighteen, when he for the first time assumes the role of the teacher, embarking on a world tour to continue the work of his predecessor, to be of service to sentient beings. Perhaps never before has this process been so openly and engagingly portrayed, sharing Yangsi’s aim of how Buddhism can be relevant in the modern world.

Daughters Of Dolma

Dolma is the Tibetan name of Tara, a Buddhist female deity, and means 'she who saves'. Dolma is regarded as a Bodhisattva of compassion and action. She is known as the mother of all buddhas. Our team felt that Dolma relates to the message we would like to convey via our movie and used her name in the documentary title.

One of the main legends about her origin as a bodhisattva tells a story of a young princess who lived in a different world millions of years ago. Her name is Jnanachandra. For a long time she makes offerings to the Buddha of that world in her determination to become a Buddha. After achieving a certain level of attainment, the princess is advised by monks to pray to be reborn as a male to progress her Enlightenment. “Nonsense.”, she replies.”What difference does the shape of the body matter? In fact, to dispel this incorrect notion from the minds of certain beings, I will forever be reborn as a female!” The princess spends years in meditation and becomes Buddha. She believed that:
 
Here there is no man, there is no woman,

No self, no person, and no consciousness.

Labelling male or female has no essence,
But deceives the evil-minded world.



Her vow is:



There are many who desire Enlightenment
in a mans body,
but none who work for the 
benefit of sentient beings in the body of a 
woman.
Therefore, until samsara is empty, I
 shall work for the benefit of sentient beings 
in a womans body!

Daughters of Dolma takes viewers on a journey revealing a distinctively female experience of Tibetan Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley. This feature-length documentary brings to the screen not just Buddhist spirituality and qualities like compassion and kindness, but Tibetan Buddhist nuns as full individuals beyond their monastic vows and religious practices. Daughters of Dolma reveals how gender and modernity are moulding contemporary spiritual practices in Nepal.

Edge Of Dreaming

Scottish filmmaker Amy Hardie built a career on making science documentaries, reflecting her staunchly rational mind. Then one evening she had a haunting dream of her horse dying, waking to discover that her beloved horse had passed away that same night. Shaken, she tried to pass it off as mere coincidence. But then she had another disturbing slumber, a nightmare where her deceased ex-husband predicts that she will die at age 48. After a foreboding doctor’s visit, and with her 49th birthday mere months away, she starts to wonder about the explanatory power of dreams and their impact on her own mortality. In Edge of Dreaming, Amy looks for answers everywhere, from leading biologists (Professor Irving Weissmann of Stanford) and neuroscientists (Dr. Mark Solms of the Royal London School of Medicine) to the more spiritual solutions of a shaman. With the love and support of her family, Amy chronicles her quest to untangle the knots in her unconscious and the meaning of her destabilizing dreams.

With One Voice

With One Voice shares the eternal message and wisdom of the mystics. This illuminating documentary explores the unity of humanity, reveals our essential oneness and spreads the single message that binds all faiths together. The film features mystics from many of the great spiritual traditions around the world, whose lives have been dedicated to answering the mysteries of existence. For mystics, all of our problems stem from a loss of connection with the infinite source that sustains us all and their solution is simple; reconnect.

Featuring Swami Karunananda, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, A. Hameed Ali (A.H. Almaas), Ajahn Amaro, Rabbi David A. Cooper, Dr. Mohammad Faghfoory, Sheikha Fariha al Jerrahi, Gangaji, Joseph Goldstein, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Joan Halifax Roshi, Father Thomas Keating, Derek Lin, Wayne Liquourman (Ram Tzu), John Daido Loori (Roshi), Marcelle Martin, John P. Milton, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Grandmother Lillian Pitawanakwat, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé, and Brother David Steindl-Rast.

 



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