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Buddhist Film Festival Debuts in Barcelona, Catalonia

The first ever Catalonia Buddhist Film Festival (FCBC) will be held in Barcelona this coming October. This marks the first large-scale event centered on Buddhist films organized by the International Centre of Spain.

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This project is spearheaded by the Catalan Coordinator of Buddhist Entities (CCEB), an association comprising about 30 Buddhist communities from various traditions in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. The FCBC is a pioneering Buddhist project in Spain, resulting from collaboration between the CCEB and the Buddhist Film Foundation (BFF), the producer of the International Buddhist Film Festival (IBFF).

The Catalonia Buddhist Film Festival will showcase a range of feature films and non-commercial documentaries. These films, intended for a general audience, focus on themes such as climate crisis, education, social justice, and gender equality. Each film will be accompanied by live and online presentations from directors, as well as interviews and discussions. The screenings will take place from October 19 to 23 at Cines Verdi, located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gracia district.

“FCBC was created with the long-term goal of holding the event biennially. This is not just a festival by Buddhists for Buddhists, but a quest to bring Buddhist values to the widest possible audience through an engaging and relevant medium like cinema,” said Montse Castellà Olivé, co-founder and Vice President of CCEB.

The FCBC aims to promote and discuss the truths and humanistic values of Buddhism, such as impermanence, interdependence, the importance of value-based education, and environmental care. In line with this, FCBC plans to minimize its ecological footprint, significantly reducing paper usage and utilizing recyclable materials. The film selection criteria include gender equality.

FCBC will open with “Greetings from Fukushima” (Grüße aus Fukushima) by German director Doris Dörrie, who will personally introduce the film. This work won the Confédération Internationale des Cinemas d’Art et d’Essai (CICAE) Award and the Heiner Carow Prize at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, and was nominated for the Panorama Audience Award. Dörrie’s film takes viewers to the earthquake-stricken region of Japan in 2011, highlighting a deep friendship between a young German woman and an older geisha.

However, the question arises: is there a distinct genre of Buddhist film? Gaetano Kazuo Maida, Executive Director of BFF and co-founder of “Tricycle” magazine, and also the director of the documentary “Peace Is Every Step” about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, shares insights.

“BFF and IBFF were established in 2000 to introduce the public to films on Buddhist themes or inspired by Buddhism. As Buddhist filmmakers, educators, and cinephiles, we are aware of many acclaimed films that may not necessarily attract general audiences, even at festivals. Our criteria for films are: meaningful storytelling; a Buddhist scene, character, or event at the heart of the film; or a key Buddhist content creator or participant… To date, we have screened over 300 films from 22 countries and have about 3,000 titles in our database. There indeed is a Buddhist cinema!” Maida explains.

Dharma-Gaia (DGF) also promises success for this initiative in preserving, disseminating, and teaching Buddhist cultural values. Daniel Millet, founder of DGF and editor of “Buddhistdoor en Español,” shares, “Cinema is a fantastic way to spread Buddhism and a perfect mirror for our modern society. Films can share core teachings entertainingly yet profoundly, akin to ancient scriptures filled with stories that enlighten us. We see the Four Noble Truths in films, recognize the harms of the three poisons (greed, anger, ignorance), the interconnection of all things, and the necessity of compassion and love on the path to happiness.”

FCBC’s operations are primarily funded by contributions from DGF and public organizations like the Barcelona City Council, ticket sales, and private companies. It is the first Buddhist film festival in Spain and among the first in any Spanish-speaking country.

The festival’s closing will include various activities at different venues, organized by CCEB members, including meditation sessions and talks for children, film forums, conferences, and panel discussions.

Maida holds high expectations for FCBC. He believes this historic event in Spain will expose audiences to the diversity of contemporary Buddhist cultures through cinema: “We’ve seen International Buddhist Film Festivals around the world stimulate and encourage attendees and local filmmakers to engage more deeply with Buddhist ideas and teachings.”

“For exploring Buddhist landscapes, a cinema is often less intimidating than a temple, monastery, or meditation center. There is a strong Buddhist community of various traditions in Barcelona and its surroundings, indicating a solid foundation for Buddhism’s growth in Barcelona and a bright future for FCBC.”

(Source: Giác Ngộ Newspaper)

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