Buddhism in Japanese feature film

birgit kellner birgit.kellner at univie.ac.at
Tue Jul 6 15:51:41 EDT 1999

dear list-members,

hoping to exploit the technical possibilities of a new location of our
university department, i am starting to develop an informal, yet
academic (or academically framed) programme (i.e. series of screenings
with a short lecture beforehand and hopefully enthusiastic discussion
afterwards) around the theme of "buddhism in feature film".

the programme as such is not limited to japanese film (i shall also
consider in particular recent hollywood representations of buddhism, in
particular "little buddha", "kundun" and "seven years in tibet", and
also hopefully get some indian films), but i'll phrase my present
concerns & questions in view of the specific focus of this mailing-list

(1) are there any studies on the relationship between buddhism (or other
japanese religions) and japanese cinema, in particular, ones that dwell
on possibly specific ways in which buddhist iconography, buddhist
teachings, values that are (or were) conceived of as specifically
buddhis, artefacts that have become identified with buddhism, or the
biography of the historical buddha become manifest in japanese films,
and what approaches could be developed in order to theorize these
(2) in view of the ways that i just mentioned in which buddhism can
become manifest in feature films, what japanese films would be most
important, outstanding, relevant, telling, etc.?

i just started thinking about this subject-matter, and have briefly
browsed some of the pertinent literature on religion in film in general,
but it seems to me that (as is the case so often with religious studies)
available literature limits its focus to christianity and thereby
neglects a lot of things, methodologically as well as content-wise. i
realize that these are very preliminary questions, but hopefully someone
on this list will have something to say on this ...

btw, while i am mainly interested in feature films for this particular
programme, information about documentaries that deal with aspects of
buddhism would also be greatly appreciated.

Birgit Kellner
Institut f. Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde / Institute for Tibetan and
Buddhist Studies
Universitaet Wien / Vienna University

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