Monks and Nuns in Film

While monks and Nuns in Buddhism are not supposed to go to town to attend shows of dancing or other entertainments associated with the householder life, Film makers have often put Ordained figures in their films. After all, such are part of the fabric of society. Hopefully it is a tasteful and respectful portrayal, even when used for comic effect (think of the nuns in Gone with the Wind holding up the distributers from the German vehicals, saying ‘Mother, we have sinned’)

Thammasart University is showing a series of movies in the next two years (yes, a two year project) exploring the representation of monastics in film as per the received information below:

The impetus for this Buddhist film festival originated in realizing that great changes in consciousness about race and gender were accomplished in the past fifty years, starting with how the image of African-Americans, women, and gays-to name three oppressed groups-have been depicted in film and on television. These images formed a crucible of contention in overturning simplistic thinking about those categories. Regarding Theravada monks, the 227 Vinaya rules proscribe viewing entertainment, therefore disabling the critical function of self-perception regarding monks and nuns in this vast tradition. Luckily, the rules do not deny education to the clergy, and therefore these films are presented with the intention of inviting everyone to contemplate and assess the situation of how monks and nuns are perceived in society as viewed in the images created about them. Of course, the presentation will be only a meager representation of such images (there are approximately 4,000 relevant films), but it should be sufficient to engender discussion about the subject at large.

The film festival will be conducted in two parts, the first from 2-20 February 2009 and the second in early 2010 (exact dates for 2010 to be announced later). Following each showing, we will have a discussion of pertinent issues related to the topic (in Thai and English). The audience during part one will be invited to propose films and topics for consideration during part two, a reason for doing the project over a two-year period. The portrayal of monks and nuns in film-whether positive or negative-should be a topic open to discussion and analysis and not remain a residual blind spot in the consciousness of those very individuals whom society wishes to have emulated as model citizens of the religious community.

John Solt

The Portrayal of Buddhist Monks and Nuns in International Films

an educational festival examining imagery


Location:                Thammasat University

Tha Phra Chan campus

Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

Pridi Banomyong Library, U2

Rewat Buddhinan Theatre


Dates:                     All showings are from 1:30-4:00 p.m.

February 2552 (2009)


























free and open to the public


discussions in Thai and English




subject to change

 “Only impermanence is permanent”  –Buddha


2   Feb.       JAPAN

Rashomon (1950)


3   Feb.

BHIKKHUNI   *presentation by Venerable Bhikkhuni Dhammananda*

Women and the Buddha Potential (2007) and other documentaries


4   Feb      JAPAN

Ososhiki (“The Funeral,” 1984)


TIBET (via Hollywood)

 6   Feb : Little Buddha (1993)

10 Feb : Seven Years in Tibet (1997)

11 Feb : Kundun (1997)



13 Feb : Sibha kham doan sib ed (“Fifteenth Day, Eleventh Month,” 2002)

16 Feb : Luang phii theng (“Holy Man,” 2005)



17 Feb : Gandhi (1982)                               *presentation by Amarjiva Lochan*

18 Feb : Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (2000) *presentation by Satyasheel Gautam*


INDIA/KOREA (assorted spiritualities-saddhu/ shamanism)

20 Feb : Kings with Straw Mats (1998)

An Initiation Kut for a Korean Shaman (1991)

[note, both these movies are shown on the same day]

 Further information:

curator:                                   John Solt

organizers:                              Chutatip Umavijani, Srichan Chancheewa, Songkram Meeboonya,

Vachara Namchitcharean, Sukanya Makutonrudee, Nualchawee Suthamwong, Comsan Yuwaponpongkul and Chooman Thirakit


resident artist:                                    Sarah Sutro

library foyer exhibit:              “Layers of Marks and Mind: Meditation in a Landscape”


resident Buddhologist:           Satyasheel Gautam


honorable guests:                   Chai-Anan Samudavanija, Thanong Khantong, Amarjiva Lochan, Tetsuya Taguchi, Sophana Srichampa, Endoo Nabangchang, Rosesukon Khannabha, Pataraporn Sirikanjana, Rainer Pawlitzki, Srisuda Foythongsamrong, Bunyong Roeun, Jerry Hopkins, Manisa Thanasumpunth, Wanarak Oonjan, Veena Naidu, Apiramon Damrongsiri, Nanthaporn Damrongsiri, Venerable W. Piyaratana, Venerable Maitree Moorthi and Venerable Bhikkhuni Dhammananda

produced by:


9121 Sunset Boulevard

Hollywood, California 90069, U.S.A.



Thammasat University, Silpakorn University,

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University

World Fellowship of Buddhists


film festival affiliation:           South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study

of Culture and Religion (, Amarjiva Lochan, president

in memoriam:                         Masatoshi Nagatomi and Kenneth Rexroth

photographs courtesy:           © Srisuda Foythongsamrong; except © Thammasat University (left flap); © Chooman Thirakit (back). Used with permission.



(please put “film festival” in the subject line)

4 replies on “Monks and Nuns in Film”

  1. Wow. Its a fabulous opportunity 🙂 I’m thankful I’m my own boss and have flexi hours of work. So do hope to be there few times.


  2. Hi,

    Well, I went every day (although because of work I had to miss two of the films, but I did make the discussions afterwards) and i can honestly say that this festival was one of the best events I have ever attended in Bangkok.

    The organisers did a marvellous job of putting it together, each film was brilliantly introduced and there were a whole range of experts speaking after each one finished. And the discussions were wonderful.

    I saw one or two Littlebang regulars there (hi Will!) and made some great new friends too. And learnt a lot.

    Thank you to everyone that put this event together, and thank you to Littlebang for spreading the word.

    See you same time next year!


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