Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Buddhist film festival in Thailand seeks to win over the young, the busy, the jaded

Religion can be a tough sell nowadays, so instead of waiting for disciples to make their way to temple, some promoters brought 36 films with Buddhist themes to the heart of modern Thailand earlier this month.

The International Buddhism Film Festival was an effort by the government and private religious groups to popularize Buddhism among the younger generations.

“It’s like prescribing medicine to children, you have to add a little sweetener there,” said Somchai Seanglai, the permanent secretary of Thailand’s Culture Ministry. “City dwellers or our young people are not used to the traditional way of practicing Buddhism, so we insert Buddhist dharma into art and culture that people love to consume.” Dharma refers to the Buddha’s teachings on the meaning of existence.

Initiated by the California-based Buddhism Film Foundation, the movie festival came to Bangkok for the first time this year since its debut in Los Angeles in 2003, and pulled in 3,700 visitors.

“Now many youngsters think of Buddhism as a religion for old people, so the film festival is trying to engage Buddhism with the contemporary world,” said Santi Opaspakornkij, executive director of the Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives, an education center dedicated to promoting Buddhism through new channels in Thailand.

About 90 percent of Thailand’s population is Buddhist, but many view the religion simply as a rough guide to social do’s and don’ts, with vague notions encouraging good behavior.

Read the full story from The Washington Post

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