Celebrating Vesak with Cinema

By Susitha R. Fernando, The Sunday Times, Feb 8, 2009

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- First ever Buddhist film festival will be opened with Vesak celebration 2009 together with film screenings, book fairs, art exhibitions, beautiful decorations like pandals and food festivals from May 9 to 16, 2009 at BMICH premises.

With the aim of disseminating Buddhism using audio visual media, this colourful international event is organised by Light of Asia Foundation.

The Festival will consist of a Short Film Competition, Feature Film Exhibition and Workshops with objective to encourage film makers globally to make films on Buddhist themes, as well as to enlighten viewers on the depth of Buddhism.

“This attempt is only a preparation for the Vesak 2011 which we are planning to make the most internationally attractive event in Sri Lanka. It will be like going to London for Christmas,” said the man behind the organising the event, Navin Gooneratne.

The year 2011 is also important as we are planning to release a major film on the life of the Lord Buddha of which the script is already completed and scheduled to be directed by world renowned Indian filmmaker, Shyam Benegal.

In association with the National Film Corporation of Sri Lanka, the event ‘Vesak 2009’ is organised and it is assisted by the Sri Lanka Tourism which is planning to bring film lovers from all around the world while promoting religious tourism.

The film competition will be conducted under three categories, Local Short Film Competition, International Short Film Competition and Mobile Short Film Competition.

The Local Short Film Competition, International Short Film Competition which is open to any Sri Lankan including independent film makers, film schools, universities, members of Buddhist temples, Sri Lankans living overseas and organizations from Sri Lanka.

Mobile Short Film Competition is open to any participant from Sri Lanka or abroad and entries are encouraged from schools, Buddhist societies, Drama Clubs and any individual.

And the requirements expected are that the films must have a Buddhist theme, must be less than 12 minutes in duration in black and white or colour, must be submitted in DVD version (could created in any format including flash, 3D animation and graphics) and submissions under the International Category should be subtitled in English.

In addition there will also be an exhibition of feature films on Buddhist themes which will showcase the world’s best Buddhist films and submissions are open to films of all genres including fiction, animation, documentary, experimental, music video or any other from any nation of the world.

Entries are welcome from any country and submissions can be send in English, Sinhala or subtitled in English. Entrants are required to send preview copies on DVD. The deadline for the entries to the Short Film Competition and Feature Film Exhibition will be March 12, 2009, while deadline for the Mobile Short Film category had been extended to 16 April upon popular demand.

Films will be judged based on quality of film making, as well as content and message and they will be judged by an eminent panel of internationally acclaimed judges appointed by the NFC.

Awards and valuable prizes including cash prizes will be awarded to the winners and in the 7 best local and 7 best international short films will be showcased on National Television from May 9 – 15, 2009. The Audience Award for the Best Short Film will be based on SMS votes from the TV audience.

More information could be obtained and submissions for the competition can be submitted online through Light of Asia Foundation’s website www.lightofasiafoundation.com.