It is no secret that the film industry is going through an accelerated evolution. What should always remain at the core of the debate, however, is quality content. I find it very heartening that Yujiro Seki’s Carving the Divine, one of the most original Buddhist-themed films to have come out in recent years, will be enjoying a UK premiere at the 29th edition of the Raindance Film Festival in London.
Buy tickets to Carving the Divine at Raindance
Date of festival: 27 October to 6 November 2021
Date of Carving the Divine screening: 2 November 2021
Venue: Genesis Cinema, 93-95 Mile End Road, Bethnal Green, London E1 4UJ, United Kingdom
Carving the Divine offers a rare look into the 1400-year-old Japanese Buddhist wood carving tradition (butsuzo) and the practitioners struggling to preserve its legacy in a rapidly changing Japan. The film provides a profound insight into the Japanese psyche as well as the nature of human perseverance through suffering. It follows the lives, career highs, and mistakes of these carvers (busshi) while also focusing on commissions or projects that the carving school has accepted from Japanese temples.
Founded in 1992, Raindance Film Festival is Britain’s largest independent film festival and was rated by Variety in 2013 as one of the world’s 50 “unmissable festivals.” This is in large part due to the need for indie films to receive a platform that allows those films’ messages and issues to be explored, rather than the increasingly banal and gauche mainstream safe ground tread by Hollywood and other big studios. That Carving the Divine is now part of this year’s lineup at Raindance means that the subject matter, which is an integral part of Japanese history and modern religion, can now engage a much larger audience. It also means that Yujiro’s decade-long work of bringing butsuzo to the same prominence as sushi, tempura, or other household Japanese words is bearing fruit.
We have reviewed the film in the past, and it is an admirable showcase that blends artistic heritage with contemporary human stories (particularly focusing on the lives of the busshi that choose this tough and singular vocation as a way of life). I know Yujiro to be one of the most driven and creative professionals in Dharma media, and it is wonderful to see his film enjoy this important exposure at the festival. The free cup of Japanese fine sake awaiting audience members of the screening should be quite attractive, too.
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