Carving the Divine offers a rare and intimate look into the life and artistic process of modern-day Busshi – practitioners of a 1400 year lineage of Buddhist woodcarving. Determined to pass his craft down to future generations, Master Koun Seki, the former apprentice of renowned Busshi, Kourin Saito, interviews a candidate applying to be his new apprentice. Quickly though, we discover this apprenticeship and the Busshi’s life to be far less glamorous, and much more austere, than we (or the Candidate) would’ve likely imagined.
Once Master Seki makes his selection, we’re taken on a trip through a guild culture unlike anything existing today in The West: From the growing pains of a novice apprentice, to the entire guild working together as one body to create breathtaking works of art, to the monkish practice of the famed, Grand Master Saito himself, alone on his quest to “leave nothing but great works behind.”
What’s more, we’re granted unprecedented access into the secret rites of Shingon (True Word) Buddhism. And faced with the devastation of the Tōhoku Tsunami, we’re given profound insight into the Busshi’s significance within the Japanese psyche, and the nature of human perseverance through suffering.
Carving the Divine
Born and raised in Japan, Yujiro Seki discovered his passion for film-making when he was in high school. Through making his first feature film, Sokonashi Deka (The Enigmatic Detective), he became enamored with the imaginative possibilities of cinema and vowed to master the art through study in the United States. Despite the fact that starting a new life in a new country was a challenge in itself, Seki earned a BA in Film from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a short film, Sashimi Taco, for his senior, honors thesis. Following his graduation, Seki moved to Los Angeles to work as a director of the video department for Intermarket Design, and as a film instructor at Montecito Fine Arts College of Design. After attaining permanent U.S. residency, Seki began studying full time in the Cinematography program at UCLA Extension. Upon graduating from that program, he embarked on the journey of making his feature documentary project, Carving the Divine: Buddhist Sculptors of Japan
Carving the Divine has become the official selection for 29 film festivals, showing a total of 22 countries, and won the awards at 12 festivals worldwide, such as winning the Best Director Award of a Foreign Language Documentary at the Milan International Filmmaker Festival and premiering at the famous Raindance Film Festival in London.
Screening at Art & Ornament on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 April, Dalkeith Palace. Carving the Divine will run both days at 4pm, please book a ticket to attend.
Co-organised by Japan House
This screening of Carving the Divine is co-organised by Japan House and takes place as part of Art & Ornament, an exhibition at Dalkeith Palace by the Master Carvers’ Association & Friends.