• KARMALINK - Boy sitting on rooftop writing - THIS Buddhist Film Festival


Sat 23 Sep | 6.50pm

Single Cinema Ticket: $15
Prices exclude SISTIC booking fees

** This film will be screened together with REINCARNATION MALL

Cambodia, USA | 2021 | 101 min | PG: Some Coarse Language

English and Khmer with English subtitles

Directed by Jake Wachtel

** This film will be screened together with REINCARNATION MALL


In the near-future Phnom Penh, the rich and privileged are augmented with nanotech, and new skyscrapers crowd the skyline. In Tralop Bek, a tight-knit community threatened with forced eviction, 13 year-old Leng Heng is having vivid dreams of his past lives. He and his friends are convinced they are meant to find a buried Buddhist statue to save their homes, and they seek out help from a street-smart girl in the neighbourhood, Srey Leak. Together they follow clues across town and into the past. As Leng Heng’s dreams converge on the present, his very sense of identity begins to unravel. When it becomes clear that the stakes are higher than they imagined, the two friends must decide how far they are willing to go to find their treasure and the truth.

Sat 23 Sep | 6.50pm

Single Cinema Ticket: $15
Prices exclude SISTIC booking fees

** This film will be screened together with REINCARNATION MALL


KARMALINK - Movie director Jake Starr - THIS Buddhist Film Festival

Jake Wachtel grew up in Palo Alto, California but now considers himself a dedicated peripatetic, having spent much of the past decade wandering the globe. After graduating from Stanford University with degrees in Psychology and Film Studies, he began a career making short documentaries for nonprofits and social impact ventures working in the global south — his work has been featured on NYTimes.com, Wired, NPR, and MSNBC.

In 2015, hungering to get to know a single community more in-depth, he moved to Cambodia to teach a year-long class in filmmaking to children living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. His Phnom Penh-set short film The Foreigner Here premiered at the Cambodian International Film Festival alongside the works of a new wave of young Cambodian directors. Phnom Penh became his home base for several years as he developed KARMALINK — Cambodia’s first sci-fi movie — set in the community where he taught and starring his former students.

Jake Wachtel is an avid meditator and eclectic musician, playing over 100 instruments from around the world. He also moonlights as an aspiring Cambodian pop star.


Cambodia is speeding headlong into the future. It often seems like things are changing here much faster than in Silicon Valley, where I come from. Fertile, yet perennially overlooked, ground for a sci-fi story.

How is this rapid development affecting the individual, culture, values? For example, how did family structure change when kids began signing up for Facebook, creating personal profiles? The very design of Facebook has a profoundly different effect in a community-oriented place like Cambodia, than it does in the individualist West, where the technology was developed.

I found myself reflecting on these questions continually during my year teaching filmmaking to kids living in Tralop Bek, a neighbourhood built around the railroad tracks that bisect Phnom Penh. Tralop Bek is a special place, in this chaotic and teeming metropolis — it really has a small community, traditional feel. But Tralop Bek is under threat from displacement from all sides — the physical kind (see: the 4,000 families “relocated” from nearby Boueng Kak Lake, which was filled in with sand to make space for luxury developments), but also more much more subtle forms.

I rather hate the word “slum” because it carries in the imagination a litany of heinous sufferings. For all intents and purposes, Tralop Bek is a “slum” — most people there don’t make much money, even by Cambodian standards — but the typical stories about “slums” are woefully unrepresentative of this place. You know these stories, full of the tropes of “poverty porn”, encouraging us to root for the protagonist to escape their plight (and by extension, their community) — the ultimate individualist, capitalist fantasy. I hope KARMALINK, as a celebration of Tralop Bek and its inhabitants, can be an antidote to that narrative, while questioning the trade-offs being made as we hurtle ever faster into a more homogenised, consumerist, and connected future.

Finally, as an avid meditator who studied neuroscience, I’m perpetually fascinated by the strange machinations of well-meaning but myopic techno-utopists, so those elements figure into the story as well.


Jake Wachtel
Valerie Steinberg Productions


LITTLE BUDDHA - Actor Keanu Reeves as The Buddha sitting in meditation under the Bodhi tree - THIS Buddhist Film Festival


Sat 23 Sep | 1pm
Thu 28 Sep | 6.50pm

France, Liechtenstein and United Kingdom | 1993 | 135 min | PG

LITTLE BUDDHA is a captivating film by renowned director Bernardo Bertolucci that tells the parallel stories of Jesse, a young boy in modern-day Seattle, and Siddhartha, the prince destined to become the Buddha in ancient India.

WAKING UP 2050 - Projection of a person on a bridge - THIS Buddhist Film Festival


Tue 26 Sep | 6.50pm

Germany | 2021 | 45 min | PG13: Some Mature Content

WAKING UP 2050 is a documentary film completed during the Covid pandemic as the graduation project of Communications Design student Ray Choo at the University of Applied Sciences, Berlin (HTW).

TUKDAM BETWEEN WORLDS - Researcher in Tibetan monastery - THIS Buddhist Film Festival


Sat 23 Sep | 4.10pm

Finland | 2022 | 91 min | NC16: Some Disturbing Scenes

TUKDAM: BETWEEN WORLDS follows the first ever scientific research into tukdam by neuroscientist Richard Davidson’s team, juxtaposed with intimate death stories of tukdam meditators and Tibetan understandings of the death process – which include ideas about consciousness and the mind-body connection that are very different to those of mainstream science.