Opening Night Film


Directed by Steve Hoover
92 min.

Thursday, June 19, 7pm

$20 as part of Opening Night program with ABC News anchor Dan Harris


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Blood Brother has won many festival awards, including the Sundance Grand Jury Award and Sundance Audience Award

Simply put, our opening night film is about the power of love. The inspiration towards generosity and compassion is universal, and “Blood Brother” is a vivid portrayal of someone who, though not a Buddhist, walks the Bodhisattva’s path of compassion.

Perhaps the most generous gift is to give of yourself and that’s what the film’s subject, Rocky Braat does when he walks into an orphanage for kids with HIV and AIDS in a remote village in India. This film is about the desire to serve, and how a heart that is open, opens to joy — even in the most disturbing conditions.  We think you’l be moved and inspired by this love story. It’s a love story between Rocky and the kids he serves, and between Rocky and his best friend, Steve Hoover, the film's director.

Rocky first happens upon the orphanage while on a vacation in India. But after his return to the States, he finds that he cannot leave it all behind. He can’t stop thinking about the kids. His heart and mind are with the orphanage, and he makes the decision to move to India and dedicate himself to them. Hoover, a filmmaker, was intrigued and unnerved by his best friend’s radical life change. In an effort to find out what compelled him to give up every source of stability in his life, Hoover decided to trace Rocky’s story, following him to India.

There, he witnessed Rocky and the kids endure disease, abject poverty, and death. But in the midst of all these troubles, he also saw their deep joy, and came to understand why Rocky had given up everything he had to experience it. Blood Brother is a story of friendship and of life stripped down to its essence.

We know you’ve seen films about helping kids before, but, we assure you, this one is something special. Despite the unflinching look at often harrowing circumstances, this beautifully shot film is brimming with genuine happiness. Don’t miss it! We believe you will be thinking about it and talking about it for days to come. 




Photo by Nicky Vreeland

Directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara
90 min.

Friday, June 20, 9pm



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This film charts the improbable life story of Nicholas Vreeland. Born the blueblood grandson of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, Nicky led a glamorous life and grew up jet setting around the world. Handsome and well educated, the stage was set for him to live a comfortable and exciting life among an elite circle. But Nicky walked away from it all. This film traces the journey that took him from a wealthy young man, to a humble monk determined to rebuild a much needed monastery in India.  

In the words of his stepbrother, Ptolemy Thompkins, "If somebody would write a screenplay about Diana Vreeland’s grandson becoming a Buddhist who said no to all artifice, all fluffy surface, I think somebody who read it would say, ‘It’s too obvious.’ Yet, that’s what happened."  

In his early years, Nicky discovered a passion for photography, and with the help of his grandmother's connections, he walked into apprenticeships with iconic photographers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. His love for photography is a thread that runs through the film.  As he cultivates a growing awareness of his true nature, he questions his drive to shoot pictures, and the role that ego plays in making art. The film chronicles Nicky's struggle with this issue and the eventual balance he strikes between passion and service.

The film takes us on a thrilling and engrossing ride that includes commentary by Richard Gere and other notables in the worlds of Buddhism, and New York intelligentsia, as well as fascinating and intimate footage with the Dalai Lama. 

WATCH TRAILER           Visit the Film's Facebook Page


Directed by Nikki Appino
Music by Philip Glass
60 min. Plus Q & A with the Director

Saturday, June 21, 12:30 pm



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Director Nikki Appino joins us for a Q & A after the film.

"I was born in the 17th century and dropped into the 20th century.” 

With that statement, Gelek Rimpoche articulates his unique position as one of the last generation of Lamas fully educated in Tibet. To the western imagination, Tibet evokes the exotic, the spiritual, and since its invasion by China, the political; a fabled land sheltered from modernity and threatened by extinction.

Gelek Rimpoche was born in this legendary Shangri-la. Trained as a traditional monk then forced to flee in 1959, he has lived an extraordinary life spanning continents, customs and cultures. No longer in monk's robes, and now a citizen of the United States, his story is a mirror of America’s romance with Tibet and the assimilation of its unique treasures.

The feature-length documentary, American Rimpoche: A Tibetan Lama in the 21st Century interweaves conversations with Gelek Rimpoche and interviews with key players in American’s adoption of Tibetan Buddhism. Framed by remarkable photos of old Tibet taken by Rimpoche’s father in the 1940’s and 50’s, the film breaks ground in exploring one man’s job as a modern spiritual leader and the impact of Tibet’s myths and practices on Americans seeking direction in an increasingly complex world.



Directed by Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit
Narrated by Ryan Reynolds
85 min. Plus Q & A with Director Suzanne Chisholm

Saturday, June 21, 9pm



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Director Suzanne Chisholm joins us for a Q & A after the film.

"Wondrous to behold."   - Andy Webster, New York Times

On the evening of the Solstice, we turn to the ocean as a symbol of cosmic consciousness, and to the whale as a planetary carrier of powerful, sacred experiences.

THE WHALE celebrates the life of a smart, friendly, and determined transcendent being from another world — the sea — who appeared among us to seemingly make friends and teach valuable lessons.

This film tells the true story of a wild killer whale nicknamed Luna. Accidentally separated from his pod of orcas, Luna got lost and turned up on the coast of British Columbia, in a narrow stretch of sea between mountains - a place called Nootka Sound. Hungering for companionship and lacking access to his own species, Luna quickly turns to humans and begins his attempts to communicate with them, irrevocably changing the lives of many of those he comes in contact with. 

This is no easy tale of human and animal bonding. While full of heart-opening moments, this film also asks hard questions. Government officials, locals, tourists, and the native people from the area all have different ideas about what's best for the whale. Everyone is well-meaning and highly invested in doing their version of the right thing. Remarkably, Luna has his own ideas, and repeatedly confounds everyone's plans for his life.

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that something special is happening in the village. There are several instance of people being visibly moved when they talk about the awareness they see when they look into the eyes of Luna. It's something that seems to go beyond the animal or human experience. This documentary tells an important story, one that reminds us of the mystery that surrounds life on this planet, and of the privilege that we as humans have in sharing it with other species. 

"The issues surrounding the emotional lives of animals... are explored in 'The Whale' with a quiet dignity and gorgeous images."  - Andy Webster, New York Times



Narrated by Mike Farrell
Directed by Leslie Neale
62 min. Plus Q & A with the Director

Sunday, June 22. 12:30 pm



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Director Leslie Neale joins us after the film for a Q & A

The moment someone chooses to forgive, it is like opening the prison door —  only to let yourself out. 

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, BuddhaFest presented a weekend program that focused on a mindful reconsideration of the painful events of that day. One of the areas we focused on was forgiveness. During the course of the weekend, we witnessed a number of people in the audience shedding tears of relief as they were able to finally, deeply process that experience and allow forgiveness to bloom in their hearts.

We gratefully return to the teaching of forgiveness with the film Unlikely Friends, which documents the stories of victims of brutal crimes who, through forgiveness, unexpectedly become friends with their perpetrators.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with one out of 32 Americans under criminal justice supervision. The rest of the world is intrigued by the paradox that the leading democracy in the free world imprisons so many of its citizens, 25% of the total prisoners worldwide.

Finding a criminal justice system that has left them empty and unsupported, the film's victims of unspeakable crimes forgive out of a deep need to heal themselves, which in turn motivates the perpetrators to fully account for their actions, thereby beginning the process of true rehabilitation.

These relationships, so unfathomable for most of us, open our thinking to new possibilities of how to transform a system ensconced in punishment and retribution into one of restorative justice that is based in humanity.

“Moving, inspiring, revolutionary. Unlikely Friends shows we are capable of human miracles. The tough, patient compassion and inspiration of Restorative Justice can teach the world to hear the pain of one another, and help us end conflict everywhere.”

Jack Kornfield
Author, A Path With Heart



Directed by Shoshana Cathy Korson (Daw Sanda Wadi)
65 min.

Sunday, June 22, 10 am




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This film, this journey, this offering, is to a place in the world called Suvanabhumi, the Golden Land in the Mon State of Myanmar (Burma). This beautiful and auspicious land has remained a hidden treasure, unseen and untouched by the modern world. 

After having traveled to Asia in 2002 and spending time at a remote monastery in the south of Burma, Shoshana Cathy Korson (Daw Sanda Wadi) accepted an invitation from a Venerable monk to ordain as a Buddhist nun in his monastery. She now considers Burma her home, and this film has developed over her many years of living in the monastery.

The film explores this magical land with rare, never before seen beautiful footage of the communities, country side, and the many ancient Buddhist pagodas recently rediscovered and renovated by the abbot of the monastery, the Venerable Kyaithisaung Sayadaw. 

It is a true sanctuary, protecting and nurturing the practice, devotion and principles of Buddhist doctrine and philosophy. These practices of generous heart and timeless devotion remain as simple and sublime as they have been since ancient times.

Travel with us to this timeless place of peace, tranquility and compassion for a rare glimpse into the majestic depths of an ancient Buddhist land, the Golden Land of Myanmar.



Thursday, June 19

Dan Harris
10% Happier:  How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story

Part of our Opening Night program from 7-9:30pm,
along with the film BLOOD BROTHER



Dan Harris was delivering the news live on ABC when he had a panic attack. Five million people watched it happen. He had to cut his news segment short, and return the program to Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson so they could resume the broadcast.

That incident followed his return from an extensive time covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, depression, and a period of self-medicating that included cocaine and ecstasy.

The panic attack led him to embark on an unexpected, sometimes hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the often strange worlds of spirituality and self-help. As it happens, he found the help he needed in Buddhist philosophy and the practice of meditation.

Dan's new book, 10% Happier, chronicles this journey. He tells a story that is funny, engaging, and honest. His skepticism, weaknesses and strengths are all exposed as he works to heal his addiction and find a connection to something deeper in himself.

Friday, June 20

Allan Lokos
Through the Flames
7pm - 8:30pm 



On Christmas day, 2012, Allan Lokos and his wife Susanna were in a plane crash while traveling in Myanmar (Burma). Two people died. Susanna suffered several fractured vertebrae. Allan’s injuries were so severe that doctors in Myanmar, Bangkok, Singapore, and New York all concluded that he could not survive. Yet, he not only survived but has thrived, and is now teaching and writing more actively than ever. His new book, Through the Flames: A True Story of Disaster, Love, and Determination, will be published later this year.

Allan is the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side. At BuddhaFest, he will discuss how the various practices that have been part of his life for many years helped him accomplish a recovery that medical opinion believed was impossible. 

He will also explore the relationship between patience and determination, and the true nature of each quality. He will share about his experience with physical pain, and the impermanent nature of all phenomena. And he will explore the inevitable transition from giver to receiver that each of us passes through in life, whether through difficult circumstances or simply through age.

Saturday, June 21

Roshi Joan Halifax
Shedding light on Courage in Buddhism:
Fully Inclining toward Compassion and Care
10am - 11:30am



The great and wise teachings of Buddhism help us realize that this whole life is practice, everything within its embrace. Being completely and vividly present for the rich details of our lives is the means that we use to transform our anguish, discover truth and help others. This practice then is not a place to be consoled but rather a challenge of discovery and confrontation through direct experience.

From the point of view of engaged Buddhism, integrity, stability, resilience, and compassion are essential in our work of service to others. To strengthen these qualities, we need time to integrate the values and practices that make it possible for us to meet the world with compassion and actions that are effective and compassionate. Today, the complete inclination of our planet toward the sun marks solstice or "sun standing still." What does it mean to stop, to really stop, and actualize the courage of compassion in our lives? Roshi Joan will explore this on summer solstice morning of our BuddhaFest.  

Gelek Rimpoche
The Generosity of Bodhisattvas as a Way of Life
2:15pm - 3:30pm



Bodhisattvas, or Buddhas in training, are known for perfecting six main attributes in order to benefit humanity. The first perfect attribute, generosity, involves giving without any personal or self-serving agenda. The way of a bodhisattva is to give whatever one can – materially, spiritually, and by giving comfort and service to those in need. Since the perfection of generosity is not limited to bodhisattvas, Gelek Rimpoche, a renowned incarnate Tibetan lama, will discuss the benefits and qualities of the bodhisattva level of generosity and inspire us to be able to develop that same quality.

Tibet Fest
3:30pm -6:30 pm



Hang out with our Tibetan friends as we set up camp across the street from the Spectrum Theatre in the ballroom at Artisphere. Tibet Fest is a family-friendly event inspired by Tibetan Buddhist culture and the global concern for its survival inside Tibet. Come share in the food, dance, music and spirit of Tibet.

Presented in partnership with International Campaign for Tibet and Capital Area Tibetan Association. 

Tara Brach
Removing the Armor: Letting Love Flow Freely
7pm  - 9pm



Through much of human history, the Summer Solstice has invoked a sense of both our love for life and the fleeting, ever-changing nature of existence. In this talk, Tara will explore how our hearts awaken to unconditional loving as we release the armoring against change and loss.This night is the Summer Solstice -- a turning of the wheel. Tara Brach leads us in honoring the energy of the Solstice as we welcome the long days of summer and the vitality of the sun’s energy. With the new season, we think of abundance, re-creation, generosity, gratitude. In line with the older traditions, we turn our minds and hearts to the sacred feminine in all its manifestations.

As we embrace the turning of the wheel, we also transition from that which has come before -- we acknowledge impermanence and open to the awareness of how precious each season, each life, each moment truly is. We think about the natural forces around us, our environment, and the care we need to give it and each other.

In the spirit of the Solstice, it will be an evening of feminine energy on stage. Tara Brach will be joined by Angela Blueskies and Margo McLoughlin. A member of our community, Angela is a classically trained musician whose talents have been devoted to music that uplifts the spirit and bring us back to a deep sense of home. Angela’s gorgeous voice will lead us in chants and songs to connect us with our hearts and the energy of the earth. 

Margo is a magical storyteller and dharma teacher who is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and has trained at Spirit Rock. Margo will transport us to other places as she skillfully creates the feeling of being around the fire listening to stories that are colorful and fantastical, and layered with deeper meaning than what they appear to be about. She's known for her knowledge of Buddhist stories, and has written a book called, The Giving Heart. We’re certain she’ll fill you with wonder and appreciation for the power of the oral traditions.

Sunday, June 22 

Fleet Maull
Dharma at the Edge
2:15pm - 3:45pm



In many traditional Asian societies, the charnel ground was where people would bring dead bodies, to be eaten by vultures and jackals. From the tantric yogi's perspective, this was an ideal place to practice, because it is right at the crossroads of life, where birth and death, fear and fearlessness, impermanence and awakening unfold right next to each other.

Fleet Maull spent 14 years practicing, teaching and serving in such a charnel ground, a federal prison hospital during the height of the AIDS crisis.  For the past 14 years since his release, he has continued to practice, teach and serve in many of society's charnel grounds… in jails and prisons, on the streets and in places of violence and genocide while continuing the journey of transforming his own charnel ground demons. This journey has given him a unique perspective and deep insights into the collective nature of our suffering and the roots of violence in our culture.  

Acharya Maull will share his journey through the charnel grounds and shadow realms of our society, his understanding of the endemic suffering and violence that plagues our world and an inspired vision for social transformation grounded in the realization of the innate goodness of humanity, society and life altogether.

Rich Fernandez
Mindful Leadership: Inspiring the Best in Ourselves and Others
Plus a Panel Featuring Sharon Salzberg, Fleet Maull and Barbara Bonner

4:15 pm - 5:30 pm



Sponsored by the Mindful Leadership Summit
November 14 - 16 at Artisphere in Rosslyn, VA

Save 40% - Early Adopter Tickets Now Available at

There is an alternative to just leading from the top down. It's leading from the inside out. That’s what mindful leadership is all about. It’s about recognizing that your leadership is in service to others. It’s about creating the space in your life to cultivate self-awareness and compassion, and leading with authenticity in a way that inspires others. Doing this, we can transform our own lives, our organizations, our communities – and the world.

Each of us has the natural ability to lead with excellence by cultivating our innate qualities of awareness, focus, authenticity and compassion. Mindfulness helps us to do that. It helps us to be less reactive so we can make better decisions, to see the bigger perspective so we can create better results, and to develop environments of trust and safety, where there is respect for each individual's unique style, skills and contributions.

This is the path of leadership excellence. Mindful leadership offers us the opportunity to work with our natural wisdom and humanity, while inspiring the best in ourselves and others.

Closing Night Program
7pm - 9pm, followed by
Closing Reception from 9pm - 9:30 pm

The Power of Generosity: A Talk by Sharon Salzberg and Barbara Bonner

Plus a Conversation with Ram Dass, (via Skype), Sharon Salzberg and Barbara Bonner

Music by LEA

+ Closing Reception in Celebration of BuddhaFest's 5th Anniversary



"The Buddha said that a true spiritual life is not possible without a generous heart. Generosity is the very first parami, or quality of an awakened mind. The path begins there because of the joy that arises from a generous heart.

Pure unhindered delight flows freely when we practice generosity. We experience joy in forming the intention to give, in the actual act of giving, and in recollecting the fact that we’ve given."

- Sharon Salzberg

When the Buddha taught, he began with generosity. In our individual lives, families and communities, true generosity holds the power to completely transform the way we live. Ram Dass, Sharon Salzberg and Barbara Bonner have communicated the power of generosity as a force for good in the world through their teachings, books and personal example. This animated evening will focus on how generosity can manifest in our day to day lives in often unexpected ways, opening us to new pathways of greater meaning.

The speakers will broaden our understanding of generosity far beyond contemporary culture’s definition of giving money and material wealth, to considering what it means to live a truly generous life. Barbara will share from her new book of stories and poems, Inspiring Generosity. And soul-folk singer and songwriter LEA will add to the joy of the evening as she performs for us live.

The evening closes with a reception celebrating the 5th anniversary of BuddhaFest.

Buy Tickets Here