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The Religious Affiliation of Buddhist filmmaker
Babeth VanLoo


"Speaking for the Buddha?: Buddhism and the Media" (Conference Proceedings), 8-9 February 2005, Lipman Room, Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley, California; Sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies and Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley, with the support of Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai America (http://ieas.berkeley.edu/events/2005.02.08-09.html; viewed 7 September 2005):
Babeth VanLoo, Director of the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation.

The second panel, "Motion Pictures," was moderated by Bernard Faure, a professor of East Asian Buddhism at Stanford University who recently published Double Exposure: Cutting Across Buddhist and Western Discourses (2003). Babeth VanLoo, a documentary filmmaker whose recent films include Bhutan: Women of the Dragon Kingdom, presented on her work as the director of the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation in Holland. VanLoo expressed the wish to replace the vision of Buddhism as an exotic form of escapism with a vision of using interdependence and compassion to foster society. She stated that the touchstones of the foundation are derived from the six Buddhist perfections (pa'ramita'), stressing the efforts of the staff to cultivate these in their daily work. Couching television as a view on reality, VanLoo described the programs produced by the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation as an alternative form of television based on filmmaking strategies such as selective slowness and narrow casting. Since 2001 their programs have included Four Noble Truths (1996), which films the Dalai Lama's teachings in London; Life Is An Illusion (2001), which considers similarities between modern scientific research and Buddhist theories that matter is created by the mind; The Next Step (2001), which interviews American and European Buddhists on applying Buddhism to the professional field and mainstream social institutions; Cave in the Snow (2002), which profiles an English woman who took retreat in the Himalayas for twelve years as a Tibetan Buddhist nun; and Come Dance with Me (2004), a documentary about second-generation Chinese youth in Holland and their efforts to incorporate Buddhism into their daily lives.

...A number of questions were raised at the end of the panel... Another question was directed to VanLoo, asking how she established Buddhist television. VanLoo responded that although all major world religions may be represented on Dutch television, she encountered resistance for many years because Buddhism wasn't seen as being sufficiently grounded in Dutch society. Faure asked VanLoo if there was too much "enlightenment guaranteed" in film and television, i.e. works produced from a Protestant bias that make Buddhism appear easy and accessible to Western viewers. VanLoo countered that films they have received from Asia mostly consist of Buddhist ceremonies, which do not offer enough to their audiences in terms of insight or the practical application of Buddhism. Georges Dreyfus, a speaker from the third panel, commented that we are seeing a construction of Buddhism in Western culture, which eschews ritual in favor of our notion of the spiritual, i.e. the "experiential" and the "detachable."

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Webpage created 7 September 2005. Last modified 14 September 2005.
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