Arising Light: Dr B R Ambedkar and a New Era in India, a film by David Blundell, Ph.D. of anthropology (University of California) and Prof at National Chengchi University, Taipei, received this year’s Best Documentary Film Award at the United Nations Vesak 2014 Film Festival, 8th May in Vietnam.
47 countries submitted films related to Buddhist themes; the categories were feature films, documentaries, short films, animated films, and TV series; each category short-listed 5 films for final competion. Sri Siddhartha Gautama (Sri Lanka) was judged the best film in the category of Feature Films. Other awards for Best Actress and Best Photography were given to Four Seasons (South Korea). The Best Animated Film award went to Monkey Hunter (South Korea). Thailand carried away the Best Art Direction award for its films Mindfulness and Murder. Best Short Film award went to The Void (Japan). The best TV Series was awarded to the Path to Enlightenment (Vietnam).
Arising Light tells the story of Dr B R Ambedkar (1891-1956), who rose from the community of the untouchable (dalit) in India to educate himself in the United States and England. He became a national leader in India’s struggle for equality and justice. He framed the constitution that made India a secular state and gave inspiration for the dharma wheel emblem on the national flag. After independence in 1947, Dr Ambedkar became India’s first Minister of Law. In October, 1956, at Nagpur, in the center of India, with a multitude joining in, he embraced Buddhism.
This current life history film project is the story of this man, equal in stature in India to Gandhi and Nehru, yet not well known elsewhere. The film looks at the historical implications of Dr Ambedkar’s social transformation vis-à-vis the legendary Sakyamuni Buddha’s own revolution 2,500 years ago regarding social and caste limitations and the quest for personal liberation.
The UN Vesak Film Festival
The United Nations International Film Festival was just one of many Buddhist-themed activities held around Vietnam to commemorate the United Nations Day of Vesak 2014, the major Buddhist festival of the year celebrating the birth, awakening, and passing away of the Buddha on one single day – surrounding the first full moon day in May.
The international film festival aims to educate as well as entertain the audiences in an engaging manner. The range of themes for the festival is wide including films on social, contemporary, historical issues, and aspects related to Buddhism around the globe.
The organizing board and 2,500 volunteers received around 10,000 participants, including 1,500 guests from 100 countries and 8,500 local Buddhists and visitors. Activities focused on numerous matters, the most prominent of which were Buddhist responses to sustainable development and social issues, including global warming and environmental protection, wholesome lifestyle, peacekeeping, and post-conflict recovery.
David Blundell receiving film award. Photo by Jeanette Zerneke.