Zen And War (sold out)


SUN 18 SEP  | 1:00pm  /  Singapore Premiere

60 mins
PG13 (Some Mature Content)
Japanese and English with English subtitles
Director: Alexander Oey
There will be a post-screening discussion with a film representative


Lay-Zazen-Practice_webIn the beginning of the 20th century, Japan waged a number of wars, which culminated in the Second World War.

In 1998, the book Zen at War was published in the United States describing in detail how Buddhist monks actively fought in these wars.

A Zen Buddhist woman in Holland was appalled by what she read in the book and wrote letters to Japanese monasteries inquiring how it was possible that Zen Buddhist monks were involved in warfare.

This documentary features, for the first time, Shodo Harada Roshi and other contemporary Zen Buddhist masters attempting to explain why their wartime predecessors became involved in Japanese militarism. Zen and War is a powerful reminder and timely warning of how peaceful philosophies can be waylaid by extremist ideologies.

Director’s Bio

Harada-Shodo-Roshi_webAlexander Oey works as a documentary filmmaker for several broadcasters in the Netherlands. He has made films about a wide range of subjects such as art, terrorism, economics and social issues. Films that were shown at international festivals include Hans Joachim Klein, My Life as A Terrorist (2005), There’s No Authority But Yourself (2006), Zen and War (2009), Off the Grid (2011), The Bollywood Revolution (2011), Goldman Sachs and the Destruction of Greece (2012), and Pekka (2014). He frequently contributes to VPRO’s Backlight series. His subjects usually cover a wide range of subjects, mainly in the socio-political or anthropological domain.

Director’s Statement

When I learnt from my philosopher friend Jan Bor that in the beginning of the 20th century, Buddhist monks in Japan had engaged in war, I asked myself the question that everybody would ask: “How is this possible?” I was confused since the act of compassion is so central to Buddhism.

Jan told me about a woman he knew, Ina Buitendijk, who had been in touch with important Japanese Zen masters. It is not often that these Zen masters react to letters from the outside. But they had sent letters back to Ina to offer their apologies. They felt that they had to address Ina’s story of her husband’s suffering.

I decided to make a film about this, which I knew would not be an easy task.