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Film Series

Offered by the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy
and
The Arlington Center

Watch this space for the 2017-18 schedule ... Coming Soon!

 

Saturday Evenings, 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM

The Arlington Center
369 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474
(781) 316-0282 • www.ArlingtonCenter.org

Program Description

This CE program is intended for psychotherapists who are interested in Buddhist psychology, meditation, or mindfulness. Mindfulness-oriented psychotherapy is increasingly appreciated by the therapeutic community as an effective way to reduce emotional distress. Each evening, a film addressing key elements of Buddhist psychology will be shown, followed by a presentation and a discussion moderated by a faculty member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and Chip Hartranft, Director of the Arlington Center.

Buddhist psychology and mindfulness practices originated 2500 years ago to alleviate suffering, particularly related to difficulties in everyday life. These challenges are vividly portrayed through the medium of film and provide rich material for discussion. In this eight-session course, carefully selected films elucidate basic concepts of the Buddhist approach to self-transformation and healing. Participants will explore notions in Buddhist psychology such as non-attachment, emptiness, the nature of the “self”, the link between suffering and compassion, letting-go, emotional separation as a cause of suffering, and the constructed nature of experience. The film format is designed to provide both an intellectual and a visceral learning experience.

Featured Film

 

2016-17 Schedule

October 1, 2016

MANAKAMANA

Directed by Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, 2013
118 minutes
Discussant: Paul Fulton

What would it be like to see the world as if through a divine, equanimous eye—in this case, perhaps an avatar of the goddess Parvati? Manakamana is shot entirely inside a small Nepalese cable car that transports tourists and locals—not all of them human—over sparsely populated Himalayan foothills to an ancient, lofty Hindu temple. We go along for 11 trips, each a single unedited take, observing the unselfconscious passengers continually transform in ways both subtle and striking. Even though little seems to happen—we are certainly not being ‘entertained’—each transit is a fresh opportunity to abide quietly, acquiring something of the camera’s unblinking tranquility as the magic of the everyday reveals itself. Confining though the film’s setting may seem at first, Manakamana's rigor and simplicity convey us directly into the heart of a world whose pace and outlook are vastly different than our own, and they open out onto a universe of interdependence.

 

November 12, 2016

45 YEARS

With Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
Directed by Andrew Haigh, 2015
97 min
Discussant: Jan Surrey

As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.” 45 Years is the portrait of a long, childless marriage suddenly thrown into crisis. Kate is a retired schoolteacher, Geoff a factory manager. Their days are spent on long walks with their dog in the countryside, afternoon tea, music, lunch with friends, and books at bedtime. Just as they’re planning a party to celebrate their 45th anniversary, an unexpected letter jolts them awake: the body of Geoff’s former lover Katya, who vanished long ago in a mysterious mountaineering accident, has emerged from a melting glacier. Haunted in different ways, neither Kate nor Geoff can help but succumb to the power of memory, loss, and desire, as 45 Years wends its way inexorably toward a devastating final realization.

 

December 3, 2016

COURT

With Vira Sathidar, Vivek Gomber, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Pradeep Joshi, Usha Bane
Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane, 2014
116 min
Discussant: Mitch Abblett

Though it turns on an odd and unfathomable mystery—who or what killed the young city worker in Mumbai?—the heart of the extraordinarily absorbing Court is its purported prime suspect, Narayan Kamble. Played by the charismatic Dalit activist Vira Sathidar, the soft-spoken, elderly elementary school teacher has a surprising alter ego: a fiery troubadour whose electrifying ballads about social justice make him a lightning rod for a series of increasingly farfetched charges and drawn-out proceedings. While Kamble tumbles, Kafka-like, through the tortuous Indian justice system, the very different life trajectories of his idealistic attorney, uncompromising prosecutor, and pedestrian judge also unfurl, creating a marvelously dimensional, compassionate portrait of a society squirming as it is prodded to be wise and just.

 

January 7, 2017

YANGSI

With Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche
Directed by Mark Elliott, 2012
82 min
Discussant: Meghan Searle

Is it possible—or even conceivable—that a stubborn, mischievous 4-year-old could be the yangsi or incarnation of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most important and beloved teachers? By a remarkably fortuitous turn of events, filmmaker Mark Elliott was able to be on hand shortly after little Jigme Lhundrup was identified with the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, beginning a 14-year cinematic chronicle of Jigme’s evolution into a preternaturally compelling spiritual teacher. The stirring Yangsi lets us journey and grow along with the boy and his teachers, their delightful narrations including us in the rigorous but kindhearted training of a lama. We’re also privy to their encounter with a rapidly changing 21st century and to their tradition’s flexible, compassionate response. With inspiring observations from Matthieu Ricard, Robert Thurman, and Jigme’s family, as well as glimpses of the first Dilgo Khyentse himself, Yangsi celebrates the capacity inherent in us all for wisdom, tranquility, and goodness.

 

February 4, 2017

THE LADY IN THE VAN

With Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, 2015104 min
Discussant: Tom Pedulla

Once successful playwright and actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into a trendy London neighborhood in the 1970s, it won’t be long before he encounters Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a malodorous and irascible homeless woman with a fascinating backstory. Mary has managed to survive in the tony neighborhood, moving her van from curb to curb, by exploiting the residents’ guilt as well as their generosity—but only up to a point. Before long, Mary parks in Bennett’s driveway for a supposedly short stint that stretches to 15 years. During his eccentric tenant’s stay, Bennett (and we as observers) have ample chance to reflect on friendship and mortality as both Shepherd and the author’s widowed mother confront illness, aging, and death. Mary’s extended tenure will also provide the real-life Bennett with almost daily lessons in compassion and become the grist for two plays, a book, and this terrifically engaging film.

 

March 4, 2017

FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY

With Taraneh Alidousti, Hedieh Tehrani, Hamid Farokh-Nejad
Directed by Asghar Farhadi, 2006
104 min
Discussant: Charles Styron

Asghar Farhadi’s acclaimed Fireworks Wednesday unfolds over the course of a long day in the life of Rouhi, a young bride-to-be who works for a housekeeping agency. While attempting to perform her duties on a new assignment at a luxurious but chaotic Tehran apartment, she gets drawn into the volatile drama and deceptions of the affluent couple who live there with their neighbors. As day proceeds to night and fireworks for the Persian New Year, Rouhi’s allegiance swings from one character to another, each shift edging her closer to the truth and challenging her romantic notions of married life. Indeed, by the film’s gripping final revelation she may know more than any of the drama’s central players. Like Farhadi's later films, including recent Dharma Film Series hits The Past, About Elly, and the Academy Award-winning A Separation, his masterful third feature Fireworks Wednesday is an utterly absorbing tale that turns on desire, dishonesty, and a clash of old and new.

 

April 1, 2017

HEART OF A DOG

With Laurie Anderson
Directed by Laurie Anderson, 2015
76 min
Discussant: Susan Pollak

A reflection on love, loss, and death, performance artist Laurie Anderson’s Heart of A Dog is as much a guided meditation as a movie. With her eccentric multimedia montage of original music, animation, home movies, stories, and thoughts about life after 9/11, Anderson is a wise guide through the difficult terrain of life, capped by the deaths of her husband Lou Reed as well as her beloved dog and frequent subject Lolabelle. Anderson offers solace and inspiration from art, music, and literature as well as lessons from her Buddhist teachers in this true dharma film.

 

May 6, 2017

ANOMALISA

With David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Directed by Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman, 2015
90 min
Discussant: Chip Hartranft

How May I Help You Help Them? is the title of a book by customer service industry guru, Michael Stone, and it is the topic of his forthcoming keynote at a CS convention in Cincinnati. It is Michael, though, who seems to need help the most. Bored, barely capable of interpersonal connection, and beginning to perceive everyone around him as the same—even an old girlfriend the family man haltingly invites to the hotel bar for a drink—Stone stumbles through the synthetic world he’s helping to create. Isolated amidst his encounters with a parade of fitfully sincere service workers and monotonic settings, he comes across only one person who speaks to him in an authentic voice: the wounded but distinctive Lisa. Anomalisa is an increasingly surreal love story for adults, rendered in a unique style of stop-action puppet photography where the seams and joints are not only visible but somehow part of the point. Artificial though they appear, Michael and Lisa move each other deeply (and us as well)—particularly when things become awkwardly, touchingly sexual. Winner of every major animated film award including an Oscar and Golden Globe, Anomalisa is a one-of-a-kind work of art—antic, entertaining, uncomfortable, and ultimately revelatory in its no-strings account of our human need to connect.

 

 

Continuing Education

Psychologists: The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy maintains responsibility for the program and its content. This course offers 2 hours of credit per session.
 

Licensed Mental Health Counselors: The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6048. Programs that do not quality for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy is solely responsible for all aspects of the program. This program is approved for 2 clock hours. It is also applicable for MaMHCA/MMCEP hours for re-licensure, in accordance with 161 CMR.
 

Social Workers: This program has been approved for 2 Social Work Continuing Education hours for re-licensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. Collaborative of NASW and the Boston College and Simmons Schools of Social Work Authroization Number D 71112.

Nurses: This program carries 2 contact hours and meets the specifications of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing (244 CMR 5.00).

 

Faculty

Chip Hartranft is the founding director of The Arlington Center and author of The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary (Shambhala). His work bridges the traditions of yoga and Buddhist psychology.

Tom Pedulla, LICSW is a clinical social worker in private practice in Arlington, Massachusetts. In addition to working with individual adults, he also leads Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy groups for people struggling with depression and anxiety. A practitioner of meditation in the Vipassana tradition since 1987, Tom is a contributing author of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, Second Edition, and a co-author, with Ron Siegel and Susan Pollak, of Sitting Together: Essential Skills for Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy.

Susan M. Pollak, MTS, EdD, is a clinical psychologist. Dr. Pollak received a degree in Comparative Religion from Harvard Divinity School, her doctorate in Psychology from Harvard University, and her clinical training through Harvard Medical School. She has been a clinician, supervisor, and Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years, specializing in the integration of meditation and psychotherapy. She is a founding member of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at Cambridge Health Alliance. Dr. Pollak has had a meditation and yoga practice since childhood. She is the co-editor, with Merry White, of The Cultural Transition (Routledge & Kegan Paul), contributing author to Mapping the Moral Domain, ed. Carol Gilligan (Harvard Press), a contributing author to Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, Second Edition (Guilford Press), and co-editor, with Tom Pedulla and Ron Siegel, of Sitting Together: Essential Skills for Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy (Guilford Press).

Charles Styron, PsyD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Watertown, Massachusetts, as well as a consulting psychologist for Caritas Norwood Hospital in Norwood and a Staff Member at Boston Health Care in Walpole. He splits his pracitce between individual psychotherapy for adults and neuropsychological assessments for adults and elderly patients. Dr. Styron has been a practitioner and teacher in the Shambala and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist traditions for 37 years and is a contributing author to Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, Second Edition. He is also a former architect.

Janet Surrey, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Founding Scholar of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Stone Center, Wellesley College. She completed the Community Dharma Leader Training at Spiritual Rock Meditation Center in 2008 and is currently teaching Insight Dialogue retreats through the Metta Programs Foundation with Gregory Kramer. Dr. Surrey has been consulting and teaching Relational-Cultural Theory nationally and internationally for over 20 years, and has been working to synthesize Buddhist and relational psychology. She has co-authored or co-edited a number of books, including Women's Growth in Connection (Guilford Press), Women's Growth in Diversity, Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers (Guilford Press), We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Women and Men (Basic Books), a contributing author to Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, Second Edition, and Bill W. and Dr. Bob: The Story of the Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (Samuel French). Her latest book The Buddha's Wife: The Path of Awakening Together, coauthored with Samuel Shem, was published in June 2015.

Christopher Willard, PsyD, is a psychologist and educational consultant based in Boston specializing in mindfulness. He has been practicing meditation for over 15 years and leads workshops internationally. He currently serves on the boards of directors at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and the Mindfulness in Education Network. He is the author of Child's Mind (2010), Growing Up Mindful (2016), and three other books on mindfulness, compassion, and mental health. He teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Registration

This course will be taught at a level appropriate for post-graduate training of doctoral-level psychologists. The course will be limited to 50 clinicians. You can register in advance by contacting the Arlington Center, or at the door.

Fee: The fee is $35 per evening session, or $200 for the full program. Sorry, fees for missed sessions will not be refunded. Fee for non-CE participants is $10 per evening session, or $60 for the full program.

Location: The films will be shown on an 8-foot screen at the Arlington Center, 369 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474. The Arlington Center is conveniently located a short 5 minute walk east from Arlington Center, on the Mass Ave bus line.

Please refrain from using scented products during the program.

Special Needs: Please inform us before the program if you have special needs, so we can make the necessary accommodations.

 

 

Past Films

2015-16

October 3, 2015

MONK WITH A CAMERA

With Nicholas Vreeland, the Dalai Lama, Khyongla Rinpoche, John Avedon
Directed by Tina Mascara & Guido Santi
90 minutes

In 2012, the Dalai Lama chose Geshe Thupten Lhundup to become the abbot of Rato Dratsang, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. What made this appointment historic was the fact that the new abbot was the first Westerner in Tibetan Buddhist history to attain such a lofty, highly regarded position. Even more remarkable, he had been born Nicholas Vreeland, and he was the son of a US Ambassador, grandson of the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and himself a photographer trained by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Indeed, if the events in this film hadn’t actually happened, they’d be deemed too fantastic and implausible for fiction. Following a youthful meeting with the exiled Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, Nicky abandoned his hedonistic life and budding career in photography and headed to India for 13 long years of arduous study and austerity.  Then in one of life’s beautiful twists, Nicky went back to the worldly pursuit of photography in order to raise money to help his fellow monks rebuild their monastery. Monk With A Camera is an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind film about a modern-day prince whose unique path from privilege to renunciation to artistic success charts a new course for the dharma.   

 

November 7, 2015

THE OVERNIGHTERS

With Jay Reinke, Keegan Edwards
Directed by Jesse Moss
90 minutes

An award-winning documentary, The Overnighters is an intimate portrait of job-seekers desperately chasing the broken American Dream in the tiny oil boom town of Williston, North Dakota. With the town lacking the infrastructure to house the overflow of migrants, a local pastor starts the controversial "overnighters" program, allowing down-and-out workers a place to sleep at the church. His well-meaning project immediately runs into resistance with his community, forcing the clergyman to make challenging decisions with profound consequences. This moving documentary highlights the promise and limits of re-invention, redemption, and compassion, as well as the tension between the moral imperative to “love thy neighbor” and the resistance that one small community feels when confronted by a surging river of desperate, job-seeking strangers. 

 

December 5, 2015

A LATE QUARTET

Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener & Christopher Walken
Directed by Yaron Zilberman
105 minutes

When one of the members of a world-renowned string quartet (the cellist, played by Walken) is diagnosed with a serious and terminal illness, the devastating news sets off a series of aftershocks that disrupt the dynamics of the group and bring long-simmering relationship issues to the surface. As they prepare for their farewell concert, the group’s second violinist (Hoffman) announces that he’s tired of playing such a subordinate role, both literally and figuratively, in his life. His marriage to Keener, who plays viola in the group, also undergoes a crisis, which is complicated by the disturbing discovery that their young daughter has been having an affair with the group’s first violinist. With strong performances by an ensemble cast of gifted actors, this powerful film is infused with a kind of intelligence and subtlety that is rare in American cinema. It also features the immortal String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131 by Beethoven, a late work by the great maestro, which provides a sublime backdrop to interpersonal dramas unfolding between the players.

 

January 2, 2016

LOCKE

Starring: Tom Hardy
Directed by Steven Knight
85 minutes

Ivan Locke (Hardy) has a family that he adores and a career that is on the verge of making him famous, but a prior evening of marital infidelity threatens to bring all of it down around him. On the eve of his greatest professional challenge, Ivan receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, his job, and his sense of who he is. All taking place over the course of a 90-minute drive, Locke is an exploration of how one decision can lead to the complete collapse of a life. Or does it? That’s the question that the central character is attempting to answer with mindfulness and equanimity in this surprisingly riveting film. Locke is a unique film of a man fighting to salvage all that is important to him.

 

February 6, 2016

ABOUT ELLY

With Golshifteh Farahani, Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini
Directed by Asgar Farhadi
119 minutes

About Elly is a psychological mystery by the Academy Award winning writer and director of A Separation and The Past. College friends reunite for a weekend at the Caspian Sea. Good intentions combine with bad judgment as trivial white lies, which start as the group arrives, play out with dramatic consequences when Elly suddenly vanishes. Her disappearance reveals a series of deceptions and revelations both surprising and profound. Farhadi is one of the greatest contemporary creators of adult psychological drama, developing themes that are compelling and universal. 

 

March 5, 2016

EX MACHINA

Starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
Directed by Alex Garland, 2015
108 minutes

Why has reclusive computer genius Nathan invited callow company programmer Caleb to spend a week at his fabulous but isolated compound in the Pacific wilderness? And more to the point, who or what are the two beautiful women who share this hermetic abode? This last question will come to obsess Caleb, who’s been enlisted to administer the Turing Test to the alluring cyborg Ava: can she answer his questions in a manner indistinguishable from human intelligence? And is that the true reason Nathan has brought him here? Ex Machina is a stunning thriller unlike any other, whose chilly atmosphere and off-kilter inter-‘personal’ dynamics are rendered as seamlessly and with the same stunning detail as Ava’s see-through torso and mesh bodice. Even more enthralling are the implications of her tutelage by the unsettled but resolute Caleb, as personality and identity appear to crystallize. How, we might ask ourselves, are hers different than our own?

 

April 9, 2016

WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES - TIBETAN BUDDHISM ARRIVES IN THE WEST

With (or Starring as the case may be) A Virtual Who’s Who of Contemporary Western Tibetan Buddhism
Directed by Victress Hitchcock
96 minutes

Entering the Path of the Dharma can happen for innumerable reasons, but staying put and growing with it requires openness and inquisitiveness, and it almost always benefits greatly from a strong connection with a particular teacher. There are myriad ways to talk about the Dharma—all of which make sense—but the eventual sine qua non of explanation and practice is an understanding of the Four Noble Truths. All Dharma teaching in a sense is ultimately a paraphrasing of these basic principles no matter how elegant and sophisticated the teaching may be. This film provides a glimpse into the world of Tibetan Buddhism as it has taken root in North America, and it also provides a very accessible introduction to The Four Noble Truths.

 

May 7, 2016

INSIDE OUT

With voices by Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling
Directed by Pete Docter
102 minutes

Childhood is never easy. This ingenious Pixar film takes us inside the head of eleven-year-old Riley who is uprooted from her happy home in the Midwest when her father takes a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley has different “parts”—Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness that are often in conflict. As Riley struggles to adjust to her new home, school, and classmates, turmoil ensues. While enjoyable and fun, the film reveals a deep understanding of the complexity of human emotions.

 

2014-15

October 4, 2014

Visitors

Directed by Godfrey Reggio with music by Philip Glass

87 minutes

What if it were possible to see ourselves and our world with new eyes, to see that which ordinarily lies invisibly beneath the familiar? In their wordlessly stirring, visionary new film, Visitors, Godfrey Reggio (The Qatsi Trilogy) and composer Philip Glass unspool a hypnotic cascade of stunning, monochromatic images that reintroduce us to humanity and its creations one distinctive image after another. As our perspective expands from fabricated earthly skylines to an austere lunar landscape reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001, the beings and world we think we are begin to grow alien. Whether in the steady erosion of our artifacts, or simply in the flicker of facial micro-expressions, no permanence is anywhere to be found. Nothing, it seems, is much more than a ‘visitor’, yet that very fact is what seems to bind us together. Visitors is one of the most transfixing, contemplative film journeys ever made, even as it patiently sits unmoving, in wait for the hidden to become visible.

November 8, 2014

The Past

Starring Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, and Ali Mosaffa

Directed by Asgar Farhardi

130 minutes

A psychological thriller, set with broken relationships, secrets and lies, The Past is a masterpiece of compassion, lack of judgment, and curiosity about the complexity and messiness of human life. Ahmad, an Iranian man, leaves his wife Marie to return to his country. When he returns a few years later to sign divorce papers after Marie has started a new relationship, he faces the harsh reality that the life he knew has changed forever. The newest film by the award- winning director of A Separation, Farhadi has been called a “sculptor of emotion and space.” Emotionally gripping and visually stunning, this film is a meditation on the ways we get caught between love and hate, past and present, marriage and divorce, life and death.

December 6, 2014 (2 Short Films)

The American Rinpoche 

With Gelek Rinpoche, Marianne Soeters, Philip Glass, Robert Thurman, & Donald Lopez

Directed by Nikki Appino, with music by Philip Glass

60 minutes

Is there such a being as an ‘American rinpoche’? No US subject is more entitled to that honorific title (‘precious one’) than Kyabje Gelek. Born in 1939 to the aristocracy in Lhasa, Tibet, and soon recognized as a tulku, or incarnate lama, Gelek was tutored by many of the Dalai Lama’s teachers and attained the highest degree, geshe, while still a teen. When the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959, however, he fled along with the Dalai Lama to India, where he eventually disrobed, migrating across the continents toward his eventual home in Ann Arbor with the Jewel Heart Foundation. The American Rinpoche documents Gelek’s extraordinary journey from the Tibet of his youth, a fabled land sheltered from modernity, to contemporary life in the West, with a visual feast of never-before-seen family photographs that evoke both a time forever lost and a hardy, flexible spiritual tradition.

The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns

With Ajahn Thanasanti, Anandabodhi Bhikkuni, Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Sujato, Ajahn Sucitto

Directed by Wiriya Sati and Katrina Lucas

34 minutes

Is Buddhism a religious movement based on equality? Or is it rooted in a male dominated culture found in most other world religions? The Buddha himself invited women to join his group of disciples as female monks–or bhikkhunis–and allowed them to be ordained alongside men some 2500 years ago. What happened? The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns reveals a little-known truth about the ancient Theravada order: women cannot be fully ordained like men. As with many women, director Wiriya Sati was raised a Buddhist but encountered walls of sexism within Theravada when she tried to advance in her practice. Wiriya spent the next 5 years traveling to monasteries in Thailand, the UK, the US, and Australia to ask why women could not be ordained as female monks in the Theravada tradition. She discovers new paths being forged for women in Australia, the US, and pockets around the world and meets the men and women who are pulling down barriers and pushing for change in the monastic world. The Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns is an absorbing and deeply inspiring short film, alert to a growing consensus in the West but leaving us with the big question: will the Bhikkhuni movement expand beyond a few independent-minded communities and gain momentum in traditional, male-oriented cultures?

January 3, 2015

Ida

Starring Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, and Dawid Ogrodnik

Directed by Pawel Pawlidowski

80 minutes

A moving and intimate drama, both historical and personal, about a young novitiate nun in 1960’s Poland, who has been raised as an orphan in a convent. On the verge of taking her vows, she finds out that she has a living relative and a dark family secret from the Nazi occupation. The traumas of the past, the legacy of the holocaust, and the weight of history all converge on a film that is personal, emotionally gripping, and deeply human.

February 7, 2015

Hardcore Zen

With Brad Warner, Markus Laitinen, Mary Stancavage, Nina Hartley, and assorted Suicide Girls

Directed by Pirooz Kalayeh

70 minutes

What exactly is ‘hardcore’ about the Zen of Buddhist priest, author, and punk bassist, Brad Warner? Although sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll are all on the table, Hardcore Zen is really more about getting real. In this entertaining documentary glimpse, Warner comes off as something more, or perhaps less, than a typical Zen priest: diffident, gentle, and quirky to be sure, but utterly unafraid to speak truth to power (or even tussle with an implausibly aggressive dharma combatant). In between zafu fights, Warner manages to dispense some insightful, compassionate teaching; dash off a bit of punk headbanging; and act in some cheesy horror movies, all with the engaging air of a teacher with a light touch who cares enough to call BS on Buddhist excesses and self-aggrandizement.

March 7, 2015

Monk With A Camera

With Nicholas Vreeland, the Dalai Lama, Khyongla Rinpoche, John Avedon

Directed by Tina Mascara & Guido Santi

90 minutes

In 2012, the Dalai Lama chose Geshe Thupten Lhundup to become the abbot of Rato Dratsang, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. What made this appointment historic was the fact that the new abbot was the first Westerner in Tibetan Buddhist history to attain such a lofty, highly regarded position. Even more remarkable, he had been born Nicholas Vreeland, and he was the son of a US Ambassador, grandson of the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and himself a photographer trained by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Indeed, if the events in this film hadn’t actually happened, they’d be deemed too fantastic and implausible for fiction. Following a youthful meeting with the exiled Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, Nicky abandoned his hedonistic life and budding career in photography and headed to India for 13 long years of arduous study and austerity.  Then in one of life’s beautiful twists, Nicky went back to the worldly pursuit of photography in order to raise money to help his fellow monks rebuild their monastery. Man With A Camera is an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind film about a modern-day prince whose unique path from privilege to renunciation to artistic success charts a new course for the dharma.

April 4, 2015

Her

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

Directed by Spike Jonze

126 minutes

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) lives alone in an ultra-modern hi-rise looking out upon an LA of the near future where everything is soft pastels and hushed orderliness. Recently divorced, he spends his days at work composing greeting cards for others but moves largely in isolation, save for the occasional elevator encounter with neighbors like Amy (Amy Adams). When OS1, the ‘first artificially intelligent operating system’, becomes available for his ubiquitous cellphone and introduces him to ‘Samantha’ (Scarlett Johansson), his hunger for connection and her unquenchable thirst for knowledge make them soulmates. Before long, they become ‘lovers’ with everything that must entail. Her is a startlingly original and affecting love story as well as a parable about identity and the human predilection for projecting it upon the world—a behavior that is mushrooming in the digital age. Gently and memorably, Her points its befuddled characters—and us—toward something real.

May 2, 2015

Dying to Know 

With Timothy Leary, Baba Ram Dass, Andrew Weil, Joan Halifax, Tsultrim Allione, Huston Smith

Directed by Gay Dillingham

99 minutes

Dying to Know explores the relationship of two of the most famous controversial figures of a generation. In the early 1960’s Harvard psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began experimenting with psychedelics to better understand human consciousness. Leary became an infamous LSD guru, turning on, tuning in and dropping out, and eventually landing in prison after Nixon called him “the most dangerous man in America”. Alpert travelled to Asia and became Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher who inspired a generation with Be Here Now, and who is still with us teaching compassion. Narrated by Robert Redford and containing rare interviews spanning 50 years, this intimate portrait challenges us to ponder the deepest questions about life, death, and human existence.