If you go

What: Buddhist Arts and Film Festival

When: Starts 5:30 p.m. July 6, through July 8

Where: Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder

Cost: $15-$108

More info: baff.film

Schedule

FRIDAY

5:30 p.m. opening reception and screening of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche's "Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait"

SATURDAY

10:55 a.m. "Golden Kingdom," directed by Brian Perkins

11 a.m. "One Continuous Gesture," Asian calligraphy with Cynthia Moku

11:15 a.m. "The Way of Haiku: Cultivating Awareness, Opening the Heart," workshop

1:30 p.m. shorts block, featuring seven short films

1:45 p.m. Japanese Tea Ceremony with Hiroko Akima

3:45 p.m. "Discovering Elegance," film starring Naropa co-founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, followed by an ikebana performance by Alexandra Shenpen

4:10 p.m. "The Next Guardian," documentary about a Bhutanese family

5:45 p.m. "Wisdom through Art, Art through Wisdom," panel discussion with painters Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche and Robert Spellman and dancer Barbara Dilley

6:45 p.m. "Akong: A Remarkable Life," film based on the life of Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche

7:45 p.m. "Sound and Silence," performance of Japanese traditional music by Yoko Hiraoka and David Wheeler


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9:10 p.m. "My Buddha Is Punk," film follows Myanmar punk band raising social awareness

SUNDAY

Noon "Mother Storytelling Workshop," teaching attendees how to tell stories of their mothers

1:55 p.m. shorts block "Mother" features four short films

2:40 p.m. "Opening Night," film screening revisits the 1977 classic in a new context

3:40 p.m. "Painting Peace: The Life & Art of Kazuaki Tanahashi," documentary screening

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is a subject in Laura Weiss’ short film "Art and Wisdom," which will screen at the Buddhist Arts and Film
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is a subject in Laura Weiss' short film "Art and Wisdom," which will screen at the Buddhist Arts and Film Festival. (Courtesy photo)

6 p.m. "Virtual Reality," panel with Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel, Andrew Holecek and Jordan Quaglia

6 p.m. "The Departure," documentary following punk-turned-Buddhist priest Ittetsu Nemoto

8:20 p.m. "Why Not Now?" documentary about author and speaker Alan Watts, directed by his son Mark Watts

9 p.m. "Mark Elliott: A Retrospective," BAFF honors the filmmaker's contribution to Buddhist film, Q&A with Elliot follows the retrospective

The inaugural Buddhist Arts and Film Festival kicks off this weekend, focusing on the subject of "Wisdom Through Art." But at its inception — and through the festival's curation — it inadvertently took on a matriarchal theme.

Co-founder Laura Weiss, of Boulder, said it was the inspiration of her late mother that sparked the idea of a launching a cultural festival.

"It's been a beautiful coincidence," said Weiss. "From the day my beloved mother passed last May, I was inspired to do something for her. Out of this incredible sadness and vulnerability, I wanted to honor her."

Co-founder Sarah Poppitz and Weiss have been working tirelessly to launch a festival that will be "valuable to Boulder," Poppitz said. Another "beautiful coincidence" and maternal tie: Weiss is Poppitz's mother.

The festival will feature a mother storytelling workshop, a Shorts Block with four short films about mothers and an experiential art exhibit, "Conduit," where portrait subjects become channels for their mothers' stories.

The festival launches at 5:30 p.m. today at the Dairy Arts Center with a reception, art opening and screening of 2016's "Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait."

Experience simulated environments

Poppitz, the festival film programmer, said she and Weiss wanted to feature more than the "typical fare" found at film festivals. Among a dozen films — including opening night's feature from award-winning filmmaker Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche — there will be a plethora of art, performance, music, workshops and culture.

Poppitz, who has worked at various film festivals over the years (Denver Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival), said, "I wanted there to be a good mix of content."

The festival is not focused on dogmatic programming, for one, she said, and attendees who aren't familiar with Buddhism will definitely find something they'll enjoy.

The festival will take over two cinema spaces and two gallery spaces at the Dairy. Boulder's Medium Labs will be on hand with interactive virtual reality simulated environments for visitors to experience ahead of the festival's VR panel. One experience that Poppitz experienced that was very evocative for her is "Walk the Plank," where users experience shooting up 100 floors of an elevator and having it open to a thin plank high above a cityscape. Users are encouraged to walk the plank and jump into the wide open.

"What it does to your mind is remarkable," said Poppitz. "I thought, we have to share this with others. Especially for meditators, it's really a unique experience that spans multiple levels."

'Transformative and beautiful art'

Weiss, the art curator for the festival, will also have her short film "Art and Wisdom" screened Saturday at the Dairy Arts Center. She premiered the film in 2016 at the International Buddhist Film Festival in Amsterdam.

"I've always been intrigued by the paintings of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche," said Weiss, who has hosted art shows for him in the past — and her daughter, Poppitz, with a background in Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan translation, is a longtime student of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Weiss said that French painter and Tibetan Buddhist nun Yahne Le Toumelin, who is the mother of Buddhist monk and renowned author Matthieu Ricard, of France, taught Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche how to paint. The short documentary follows her life and art.

"I had an opportunity to film this and to watch Rinpoche paint," said Weiss. "To watch him, as this master of meditation and a Buddhist teacher, I found it so fascinating. He paints without attachment or judgement of any kind. What he creates is pure, transformative and beautiful art."

Rinpoche, who has taught at Naropa, has a mountain retreat center in southern Colorado as well as a practice center in Ward. His paintings will be featured at this weekend's festival, and he will be at the "Wisdom through Art, Art through Wisdom" panel.

A lucky random audience member

Other featured artists at the festival include Naropa University's Robert Spellman and Boulder's Cynthia Moku. Alexandra Shenpen will perform live ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement), Hiroko Akima will present a Japanese tea ceremony, and the "Conduit" exhibit features artists Doug Safranek and Murray Nossel. There will also be there will Japanese traditional music.

"All of the artists bring a different flavor among years and years of Buddhist practice and art," Weiss said. "Their differences in style really come together to complement each other nicely."

The tea ceremony is a must-see, Weiss and Poppitz said.

"I had never been to one and I had no idea what I was in for," said Weiss. "It ended up being a stunningly beautiful ceremony."

Hosted by Hiroko Akima, who began the formal study of tea at age 14, Weiss and Poppitz described it as a mindfullness practice. Akima will make the tea and serve it to four guests, including Rinpoche, and a lucky random audience member. A commentator will explain the process and the hidden meanings through the ceremony.

"This is a ceremony that's traditionally done in private," said Poppitz. "It's an opportunity to see something on stage that is typically a very rare ceremony. And you could be lucky enough to be served by the lifelong-trained Hiroko."

Saturday night's closing film, "My Buddha is Punk," is a documentary that Poppitz said she's very excited about.

"It's been one of my passion pieces," said Poppitz. "It really speaks to a world view that is unique. It's these punks in Myanmar who are fighting for freedom in a way that traditional Buddhists wouldn't do. To the west, Buddhism can look really exotic and formal, but this film really breaks it down. It's compassionist and Buddhist and punk rock and rebellion and hardcore. Buddhism can look however you want it to look. It can live in your heart, it's not just about the dress or the ceremony."

Plus, Poppitz added, "It's been fun to have a bunch of punks in Myanmar sharing our Facebook posts."

The pair's hope is to make this an annual festival, so they're hoping for success this weekend.

"We want guests to question fixed notions of what art is and what Buddhism is," said Weiss. "We want it to be beneficial to Boulder, so maybe making it somewhat provocative is our intention. We want people to come with a sense of openness and curiosity."

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants