Every 20 years, locals tear down Ise Jingu, one of the most important Shinto shrine complexes in Mie Prefecture, Japan, only to rebuild it entirely from scratch. Acclaimed Japanese photographer Masaaki Miyazawa explores this 1,300-year-old ritual in his debut feature. Miyazawa takes viewers on a meditative journey through Japan’s cypress forests, mountains, and coasts, where coexisting with the natural world is part of enduring Buddhist environmentalism.
In Mickey Lemle’s new award-winning documentary, The Last Dalai Lama?, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, takes a look at his legacy as he enters the ninth decade of his life. Rather than presenting a linear story, the film offers an endearing, candid portrait of the Tibetan leader’s life by weaving together historical photos, rare interviews with an all-star cast—including Thupten Jinpa, Matthieu Ricard, and Daniel Goleman—and archival footage from Lemle’s 1992 biopic, Compassion in Exile.
Documentarian Tin Win Naing has made great sacrifices to oppose social injustice. In 2009, two years after filming political footage during Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution, the political dissident was forced to flee his homeland, leaving his wife, children, and friends to seek asylum in neighboring Thailand. Naing’s award-winning documentary, inspired by his own experiences of hardship and persecution, chronicles the lives of Burmese migrant workers who struggle to keep their morale and livelihood amid the grueling working conditions on the Thai plantations where they eke out a living.
Teenage brother and sister Gyembo and Tashi belong to a family that has cared for a Buddhist temple in the Bhutanese mountains for more than a thousand years. With the family legacy weighing heavily on his shoulders, Gyembo is torn between his own aspirations and his father’s wish that he commit to monasticism. Meanwhile, Tashi struggles to find her way as an athletic girl in a culture with rigid views of gender. The siblings must rely on each other as they—and the country they call home—navigate painful questions of identity and modernity in a globalizing world.
The story of Tibetan Buddhism’s emergence in the West cannot be told without acknowledging the life of the late Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche (1939–2013). In 1959, when tensions between China and Tibet came to a head, 19-year-old Akong Rinpoche, his close friend Chögyam Trungpa, and 200 other Tibetans embarked on foot on a dangerous journey to northern India. With historical footage—including scenes from this 10-month trek across the Himalayas—and recent interviews, this documentary celebrates Akong Rinpoche’s lifelong commitment to share the Buddhist teachings with many thousands around the world.