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Film: Souls of Zen – Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan

Ticket price: $10 Public$8 Concession

The Tuesday 17 September screening includes a Q&A with director Tim Graf.

The documentary Souls of Zen – Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan presents perspectives on Buddhism as practiced by clergy, lay adherents, and families in Japan by drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on the daily life of Buddhist temples, monastic education, prayer practice, mortuary rituals, and Japan's tradition of ancestor veneration in the wake of 3/11.

From March to December 2011, Tim Graf and Jakob Montrasio filmed invaluable footage of the greatest religious mobilization in Japan's postwar history. This film is the only documentary based on sustained attention to the everyday lives of Buddhist professionals in the disaster zone.

In an ethnographic journey from Tokyo to the hardest-hit prefectures (among other regions in Japan) Souls of Zen covers insights and opinions from scholars, clergy, and lay adherents with a focus on Soto Zen and Jodo Pure Land Buddhism. The film makers visited rural graveyards, urban temples, modern funeral halls, prayer monasteries, and public festivals to deliver a detailed account on Buddhism in the midst of Japan's recovery from the triple disasters.

The unfamiliar institutional, doctrinal, and psychological challenges Buddhist clergy are facing in the wake of 3/11 form a focal point of the film. These challenges will be discussed in context of long-standing Buddhist traditions, ritual innovations, and religious responses to the March 11, 2011 disaster in Japan. The film intends to re-evaluate the complex role of Buddhism in a society struggling with the sudden impact of catastrophic disasters that exacerbate and otherwise alter continuing dilemmas occasioned by demographic change and religious pluralism.

Watch the film trailer here.

From 16 - 21 September, the Film Archive presents "Earthquakes on Film," a series that looks more closely at earthquakes. Films featuring the Christchurch, Japan and Napier earthquakes will be shown.

As well as Souls of Zen, there will be screenings of When A City Falls (2011) at 7pm Friday 20 & 4.30pm Saturday 21 September.

The Newest City on the Globe (1985, 30 min) will play on a loop in the Film Archive TV Room from September 16 - 21, in conjunction with the screenings of Souls of Zen and When A City Falls in the cinema. This documentary by Peter Wells and Stewart Mains examines the architecture of Napier, featuring archival footage of the Napier Earthquake and the city's reconstruction in art deco style. Admission to the TV Room is FREE.