Saving the Wat

The San Francisco Film Society is sponsoring Saving the Wat, a film by Virada Chatikul and Siwaraya Rochanahusdin about a team of young community advocates who banded together to protect their community’s temple. Here’s a film synopsis:

Wat Mongkolratanaram, aka the Berkeley Thai Temple, comes under fire when a request to build a Buddhist shrine on their own property is submitted to the city. The Temple elders must now rely on a group of young and energetic second-generation Thai-Americans to advocate for their constitutional rights protecting religious freedoms. The team navigates through the city’s land use and permit process, represents the Temple in mediation with neighbors, launches an awareness campaign, and ultimately, brings together a community that would otherwise face potential closure of the Temple.

Please support this film project—not to mention Buddhist community organizers—by making a donation. You don’t have to bequeath your estate; if everyone in the community donates a little bit, we’ll be威而鋼 able to get this film off the ground! You may remember this campaign from posts last year by Rev. Danny Fisher and Dharma Folk, also reposted by several others. Now is a great chance to continue that support. (Hat tip to the Angry Asian Man; image credits to Where There Be Dragons and Asian Pacific Americans for Progress.)

Unmistaken Message

A single paragraph in an LA Times review of Unmistaken Child reminded me that, more than a simple arthouse favorite, this film has broader implications in the world of Tibetan sovereignty issues.

For how the situation plays out in human terms in a society that believes in reincarnation – the way Westerners believe in gravity – is fascinating. It is a subject that is poised to have serious political repercussions with the Chinese government and Tibetans in exile likely to clash over the identity of the next reincarnated Dalai Lama.

The documentary tows you through a Tibetan disciple’s search for the rebirth of his revered master. It’s a beautiful and compelling narrative, but it can also be viewed as a legitimization of the selection process. In the longstanding faceoff between the Chinese government and Tibetan religious authorities, this film has the potential to be a marketing/propaganda tool to win over broader public opinion. (Although I wonder if it’s had any effect on all the blogtalk over Lama Tenzin Osel.) I’m not much of a believer, but I wonder what sort of reaction you’d get from launching this film with Chinese subtitles.