inq: What's a Zen movie?

ironhart ironhart
Fri Nov 14 15:18:02 EST 1997

Since many new people have joined the circle since I did my first introduction allow me to reintroduce myself. 

My name is Paul Tesshin Silverman and I live in Oita Prefecture (kyushu) in Japan.  I am currently the Master  (jushoku) of the Tetsugyuji Zen Temple here and often run various social & spiritual programs for the public.  Before getting involved with this world I was a working theatre/industrial film director in America.  Last year (coming on my 10th year here) I decided to combine my various backgrounds and began preparations on my first Japanese feature film.  Without any support I?ve managed to put together an indie production which this week-end will finish shooting.  The title of the film is Hazama Monogatari. Actually we have shot it on Betacam Sp and when the final edit is completed will look for means to transfer it to 35mm.  From this point on the post-production process begins.  I?m expecting all of you critics in this circle to give it big hearty S.O. when ,and if, it ever makes it your local movie house. :)

I?m leaving for New York in a few weeks (teaching a workshop at the Japan Society and Juilliard) but I wanted to toss out an inquiry before I go.  People often ask me about the relationship between Zen and film making.   We all know about the profound affect Zen has had on various arts in Japan but I find it difficult to explain this in terms of film. For me it?s a very personal process. Last year I attended the American Buddhist Conference in Boston and enjoyed many wonderful workshops.  One of which was on ?Zen and the Japanese Arts? given by John Stevens.  During the Q&A  I raised this questions and there was total silence in the audience. As if the relationship on an art as modern as film (all 100 years old) had not been considered.  So I?d like to hear what you all have to say about this. How do you perceive the relationship between Zen and film making? What is a Zen movie!?!  How would you define it?  I?ve seen a few that people recommended and I didn?t get it. 

As a side note, the now well-known  Director Suo did a film several years ago about life in a Zen temple called Fancy Dance. (Actually not only was I in it,  I worked as an advisor for the actors.  Except for a couple of the large scenes in which monks of the temple were asked to ?lend their faces?, I was the only Zen priest in the cast).  From my perspective, this film although about life in a Zen temple is NOT a Zen movie. What do you think?

Paul Tesshin Silverman

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