March 07 Newsletter » Dharmaflicks
NINA KLIPPEL

DharmaFlicks is Village Zendo's ongoing, bi-monthly presentation of outstanding films, with sometimes subtle, sometimes straightforward Buddhist content. Seating is informal: viewers can either take a chair, or make themselves comfortable on our shining floor, using cushions or leaning against backjacks. The evening begins with a half hour of meditation and ends with a post-film period of discussion in which people can offer insights, comments or questions. To make our "evening at the movies" complete, we serve our audience piping hot popcorn and drinks.

The entrance fee is by donation.

The DharmaFlick series is also an outgrowth of Village Zendo's particular interest in the arts. Initiated in October, 2003, the program was inspired by the sense that if would provide not only a community event for Village Zendo, but also a special place for an interested public to witness the dharma as expressed in a variety of films.

Our first films were the work of our own Village Zendo members, Abbot Roshi Enkyo O'Hara and film-maker Jean Yugetsu Carlomusto. Roshi Enkyo's film opened the series. "Uji – Being Time", a thirty minute videotape, was created by Roshi in the late 1980's as an expression of Dogen Zenji's profound teaching on time and existence. The videotape centers on five aspects of time as experienced in New York City on the streets and the surrounding natural areas. The text is by Dogen.

This was followed by Jean Yugetsu Carlomusto's documentary, "Shatzi is Dying", a moving and many faceted meditation on death seen through the experience of a beloved canine's last days and shot during the height of the AIDS crisis. Over time, we've seen films ranging from Andy Goldsworthy's beautiful "Rivers And Tides" to Kurasawa's "Ikiru" to Werner Herzog's "Wheel of Time" and even, yes, "King Kong"!

Recently, we were privileged to see "What I Want My Words to Do To You", a stunning documentary about a writing group in the women's prison at Bedford Hills, New York, led by Eve Ensler. The women in this group had all taken lives, and many were serving life sentences. We see Ensler give them writing exercises designed first to help the women acknowledge their crimes, then to give voice to the fear, despair and sorrow that had formed around them, and finally to envision the future. An assignment like, "Write a letter to someone you love, telling why you're in prison" opens up a painful discussion of guilt, shame, self-hatred, and ultimately accepting responsibility. We see also the compassion that arises among them. Certainly, this is anything but a "Buddhist" film (though Ensler is a longtime Buddhist practitioner); yet the truths that these women arrive at, as Eve encourages them to search deeply in their writing, resonated with all of us. One member of the group summed it up: "Our relationships, the way we help each other is real. It's not that reality is outside— we're just as real as the outside. It's real: this is our life right now."

We had an extra touch of "reality" at that showing: another member of the writing group, now free, was brought by a sangha member who works with her. Meeting her and hearing her story was extraordinary.

The most recent DharmaFlick was "After Life," a Japanese film that poses the question: what is the most precious moment of your life, the one you would like to take with you into eternity?

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