Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?
Directed by Yong-Kyun Bae • Drama • With Yvonne Williams, Homer Nish, Tom Reynolds
• 1989 • 137 minutes
The first ever feature-length film from South Korea to gain theatrical distribution in the USA, WHY HAS BODHI-DHARMA LEFT FOR THE EAST? has received acclaim from critics and audiences around the world for decades. A film of remarkable power and beauty, the story follows a trio of monks in a remote mountain monastery as they grapple with the mystery of enlightenment. The oldest among them, a storied Zen master, wishes to make the ceremony of his upcoming death into a lesson for his conflicted apprentice, while the youngest among them attempts to nurse a bird he hit with a stone back to full health. The title of the film is a Zen koan, or a paradox meant to aid meditation, that provokes the question of the distinction between leaving and arriving. Magnificent, quietly powerful and astonishingly rich in formal beauty, this film is not only a cinematic gem, but an evocative meditation on the cyclical nature of existence.