Shugendô Now: Film about a quiet peak experience
So what does a mountain in rural Japan have to do with us?
That’s the question Montreal filmmakers Mark Patrick McGuire and Jean-Marc Abela try to answer in their documentary, “Shugendô Now,” about a group of Japanese city dwellers from different walks of life who retreat to the mountain to rejuvenate themselves, performing traditional rituals related to shamanism, Shintô, Daoism and Tantric Buddhism.
“It is the story of an esoteric tradition, and it is in Japan,” McGuire said as he and Abela checked in via Skype, “but what we’d like people from all over the world to take from the film is our deep interconnection with the natural world, the importance of the natural world and an appreciation and gratitude for the blessings we have – our families, our relationships.”
The filmmakers will be in San Francisco tonight to introduce “Shugendô Now,” which kicks off the San Francisco leg of the International Buddhist Film Festival, running through Dec. 19 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
It’s a good choice; their film is peaceful and meditative, a truly relaxing educational experience.
“One character in the film says the thing that’s really important is that you don’t become fanatics, because then you lose communication and alienate the people around you,” McGuire said. “Jean-Marc and I wanted to have a gentleness of approach, the Buddhist idea of teaching things to the level of the understanding of the person.”
Abela said he hopes the film helps those without a deep connection to nature take stock.
“We live in a time of environmental crisis,” he said. “The main character is an activist, and while he’s a traditionalist, his mission is to make things applicable to modern people living in the industrial age. To bring the heart and mind into wanting to change our habits.”
Playing at the International Buddhist Film Festival showcase runs through Dec. 19, 2010. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F. (415) 978-2700. www.ybca.org
-G. Allen Johnson, email@example.com