Buddhism and Film—Inter-Relation and Interpenetration: Reflections on an Emerging Research Field

  • Author(s): Almut-Barbara Renger
  • When: 2014-03
  • Where: Contemporary Buddhism
  • This article provides an introduction to the special issue of Contemporary Buddhism entitled "Buddhism and Film". Since the silent movie The Light of Asia, a 1925 German-Indian co-production released in the USA in 1928, increasing numbers of films have been produced across the globe that are related in some way to Buddhism. In the specific conditions of the modern period and an increasingly globalised world a new field of research gradually formed, which has continued to develop to the present day. The present special issue is devoted to this research field. The introduction will sketch its contours and give as examples particular films, especially (but not exclusively) dramas and documentaries on Tibetan Buddhism and Zen. I cannot provide here the detail and nuance which the complexity of this field truly demands, but will rather offer an introduction by picking out certain select aspects and points of view for discussion. The following eight articles of the special issue will provide more detail. The volume takes account of the topic's complexity by including contributions from various academic disciplines (theology, religious studies and cultural anthropology; literary, film and media studies) as well as from filmmakers themselves. Its goal is to make clear how rewarding it is to study this steadily expanding field, and to encourage more in-depth interdisciplinary studies that will be able to explore the complex reciprocal relationship of Buddhism and film.

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