Path Alias: 

When the Iron Bird Flies

(2012, 96 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In English
Canadian Premiere


n 1959, the Chinese invasion of Tibet threw open the doors to the mysterious realm of Tibetan Buddhism and suddenly this rich, ancient tradition was propelled into the modern world. Half a century later, Padmasambhava’s prophecy has come true and the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism are found in every corner of the earth.

When the Iron Bird Flies takes us on an up-close and personal journey following the astounding path of one of the world’s great spiritual traditions from the caves of Tibet to the mainstream of Western culture. Along the way, the film tackles the provocative exchanges between Buddhist practitioners and scholars and Western scientists, psychologists, and educators now at the heart of the emergence of a genuine Western tradition of Buddhism.

And the film investigates the question: In these increasingly challenging times, can these profound teachings help us find genuine happiness and create a saner, more compassionate 21st century world?

Through candid interviews with contemporary teachers and practitioners, rare archival footage, and striking images of modern life that illuminate and make accessible the Buddha’s core teachings, the film creates a vivid and entertaining portrait of the world of Tibetan Buddhism, as it is manifesting in America and the West.

"The film is a vivid and engaging account of the movement of the Buddha Dharma - the teachings and practices of Buddhism - to the West…Viewers of the film will come away with the discovery that they have learned a great deal. But even more, their hearts will have been opened and perhaps melted by the uplifting gift of genuine spirituality as it flows from teacher to student in a pattern free of time, showing us the way to go beyond the suffering and upheavals of our days and years." Light of Consciousness magazine

Crazy Wisdom

(2011, 86 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In English
CAST Pema Chodon, Ram Dass, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Thurman.


Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, who died in 1987, was a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Raised and trained in the rigorous Tibetan monastic tradition, Trungpa came to the West and shattered preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave—he openly smoked, drank, and had intimate relations with students—yet his teachings are recognized as authentic and influential. Allen Ginsberg considered him his guru; Thomas Merton wanted to write a book with him; Joni Mitchell wrote a song about him. Trungpa taught Buddhism as though it were a matter of life and death. He authored many popular books of Buddhist commentary and teachings (as well as a memoir, Born in Tibet) and was the founder of Naropa University and the practice community now known as Shambhala.

Filmed in the UK, Tibet, Canada, and the US, with unprecedented access and exclusive archival material, Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him.

Dead Man

(121 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
CAST Johnny Depp, Robert Mitchum, Gary Farmer, Lance Henricksen, Michael Wincott, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton


In this rarely screened masterpiece from cult director Jim Jarmusch, Johnny Depp plays a 19th century greenhorn - an accountant named William Blake - who heads west to the town of Machine. His prospects take a dark turn when a love triangle ends in double murder and Blake finds himself a wanted man, on the run, until a mysterious stranger by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer) takes him under his wing. His journey takes him from civilization as he knows it to a nebulous realm of Native American spirit, and reality seems to slip away.

A deadpan western with a distinctly Eastern philosophical vibe, this black and white gem from cult director Jim Jarmusch may be Johnny Depp’s finest work. The mesmeric, feedback-drenched rock score is by Neil Young, and a masterpiece in its own right.

"Jarmusch’s most stunning achievement." Slant

"With the passing of time, this movie will settle in and find a place as a cinema classic." Jeffery M Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

Mindfulness and Murder

(2011, 90 mins, DCP)
In Thai with English subtitles
Canadian Premiere


Thai-English director Tom Waller takes on one of the popular Father Ananda mystery novels. Former cop Ananda is now a senior monk and is asked by the abbot to solve a murder inside his monastery because the police don’t want to get involved. Not everything in the monastery is what it should be…

Director’s Statement

’’The idea was to make a police detective story—you can think of CSI, or In the Name of the Rose. But I wanted to do it with the backdrop of a murder in a monastery, to put a new spin into it. It’s not a film about religion, and certainly I’m not picking on Buddhism. What I want to do is to show how monks really live, to make them into real characters, because I don’t see many films like that getting made. […] I respect monks of course. I respect that they’re respected. But I think I have an objective look. So I go into the monastery with a magnifying glass and I look around and find out what’s interesting. That’s my film.’’

The Echo of Pain of the Many

(2011, 94 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Spanish, English with English subtitles


IA moving, thought-provoking and rare documentary by a Latin American woman, recording her return from exile and into the still dangerous and volatile political environment of contemporary Guatemala. Where over the course of four years, writer-director Ana Lucia Cuevas discovers, through the archived records of the perpetrators of the crimes themselves, the involvement of her own government and foreign Intelligence Services in the abduction, torture and murders of her brother and his young family.

Living abroad in exile for over a decade, it was only in 1999 that Cuevas found out her brother had in fact been killed three months after he was kidnapped. She learned this through the release of an astonishing document—the so-called "death squad dossier" listing with cold bureaucratic precision all the alleged subversives whom the military had abducted, with cryptic annotations marking those who had been killed.

The film, documenting Cuevas’s return to Guatemala to investigate her brother’s case and to hear others’ stories, is at heart a moving exploration of how Guatemalans have coped in the aftermath of unspeakable horrors. We hear harrowing testimony from survivors of the military’s so-called “scorched earth” campaigns—brutal massacres of indigenous communities and destruction of their homes, rendering many Guatemalans starving refugees in their own country. And we learn of the widowed women in the city who relied on each other for strength as they raised infants alone, not knowing what fate had befallen their husbands. Their demands for answers from the state fell on deaf ears at best, and at worst were met with further repression.

"A powerful, personal story of state-sponsored terror in Guatemala and the lasting effects it has had on families, “The Echo of Pain of the Many” is a timely testament to the brave, untiring efforts of Guatemalans to demand justice and dent the country’s long-standing veil of impunity." Guatemala Solidarity Network

The Act of Killing (Theatrical cut)

(2012, 115 mins)
In Indonesian, English with English subtitles
Canadian Premiere
Vancity Theatre is pleased to present both the theatrical (115 minute) version and the 159-minute Director’s Cut.


Probably the most radical and powerful film you will experience this year, The Act of Killing is a searing expose of political amnesia and impunity in Indonesia, where the gangsters and thugs behind the murders of millions are celebrated as champions of free enterprise. It is also a surreal, provocative exploration of the psyches of these men - killers who proudly re-enact their atrocities for the camera, willing collaborators in their own cinematic bonfire of the vanities.

When the Indonesian government was overthrown in 1965, small-time gangster Anwar Congo and his friends went from selling movie tickets on the black market to leading anti-Communist death squads.Half a century later, when Joshua Oppenheimer and his (incognito) partners approached the dapper septuagenarian about participating in a film, he leapt at it. But for Anwar and his friends, being in a movie is not to provide reflective testimony, but a chance to dance their way through musical numbers, twist arms in film noir gangster scenes, and gallop across the prairies as yodeling cowboys. A cinematic fever dream, The Act of Killing presents a gripping conflict between moral imagination and moral catastrophe.

"I have not seen a film as surreal, and frightening in at least a decade… Unprecedented in the history of cinema." Werner Herzog

Museum Hours

(2012, 107 mins, DCP)
CAST Mary Margaret O'Hara, Bobby Somer


Given unprecedented access to one of the world’s great museums, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, Jem Cohen has crafted a delicately overwhelming narrative about observation, loneliness, the city, the transience of all things and how art shapes and reflects daily experience. And a whole lot more. In an unremittingly gray Vienna cityscape, two people unite—museum guard Johann (Bobby Sommer) and Anne (Canadian music legend Mary Margaret O’Hara), a first-time visitor from Montreal who has come to Vienna to attend to a hospitalized distant cousin. In this late capitalist, Internet age, they get to know each other through personal contact and conversation, both inside the museum itself and in ersatz representations around the city (the hospital, a café with walls lined with photographs).

The key scene in Museum Hours takes place in the majestic Breughel room, where a guest lecturer argues that Breughel gave landscape in and of itself its due for the first time, and proposes alternative interpretations for the focal points of his paintings. This interpretive speech clarifies all the inserted 16mm fragments of Vienna cityscape that came before, and changes the way one sees things after: Cohen has constructed a radical work poised between documentary and fiction where the boundaries of the frame are infinite. When you come to understand that everything is of equal value in this huge film, and you’re left to make your own connections between them, it’s truly liberating. And the paintings are breathtaking.

"On the one hand a sad, poignant character study, "Museum Hours" is also a treatise on art history and a love letter to architectural wonder. A-" Eric Kohn, Indiewire

"Engaginly offbeat… Cerebral stuff, but delivered with warmth, wit and quiet confidence." Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

"Delightfully accessible…filled with gently moving wit." Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight

Evolution of Violence

(2012, 77 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Spanish


Guatemala. The war ended long ago. Though the people want to forget it, the violence continues, and it has spread throughout the society like cancer. Each day, journalists wait to report on the next murder victim, and a social worker helps the relatives of women who have been killed.

The global hunger for cheap resources has been another cause of violence, and a war over bananas has taken on a life of its own. The society suffers from the aftermath of the 36-year civil war. Mass graves are found in the mountains, former rebels mourn their comrades, and a war criminal has nightmares about all the things he’s done. Peace continues to elude Guatemala.

Director’s statement:

Violence pervades life in Guatemala. Just leaving your house involves a real danger of being attacked or becoming a victim of violent crime. Throughout the country, all day and all night. Many citizens have armed themselves, and it doesn’t take much to provoke acts of violence. Human life is not worth much.

While such problems are common in numerous Central and South American countries, the situation in Guatemala is much worse. Furthermore, the country has to contend with the horrible legacy of a 36- year civil war and wholesale killing of its indigenous population. A hike in the picturesque Highlands will take the visitor through a number of villages where descendants of the Maya live on what their modest plots of land produce. When speaking with locals, certain phrases are heard again and again: "Here in our village 50 people were killed and buried back there." And: "They burned them all alive."

Vast numbers of people were murdered here - and the world looked away. While Rwanda, Darfur and Srebrenica caused an international outcry, the fate of Guatemala’s indigenous population aroused little interest.

I asked myself whether there’s some kind of connection between the genocide and the violence of today. Why "Evolution of violence"? When the first Europeans arrived in the New World, they created societies based on extremely unjust social orders. While in many areas entire native populations were exterminated (e.g. in the USA), the descendants of the Maya represent the majority in Guatemala. The unfair and exploitative structures, however, never changed. A society like that is destined to live in continual violence. And all attempts to change this order have been hindered with the aid of the USA and Europe. Guatemala is considered the archetype of a banana republic. This term designates countries where banana exporters are so powerful that they are in fact in control. Whoever opposes their interests is often simply liquidated. Bananas symbolize a world order turned upside down, in which the majority sweats and slaves to create wealth for a small minority. In this film bananas also serve to create a link back to Europe.

In my opinion Guatemala provides an example of a global ideology according to which economic exploitation is veiled by cynical political rhetoric. The film shows archival footage of a speech given by Ronald Reagan. By replacing the word "Communism" with "terrorism" and, in a different clip, switching "bananas" to "oil," the spectator is brought to the armed conflicts of our time. "Evolution of Violence" goes a step further to examine a society after a conflict has ended, or more precisely: to examine a culture of continual conflict. I’m convinced that a similar film could be made about Iraq in 30 years, after the exploitation of a different resource justified by a different political pretext in a different part of the world has come to an end, when the Iraqis are finally left to themselves, all the TV cameras are gone, and the violence has taken on its own life.

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation

(2013, 92 mins)
CAST Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Carly Simon, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Don McLean, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Michelle Philips, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Chapin Sisters, Israel Horovitz, Peter Yarrow, John Sebastian, Jose Feliciano, tom Chapin


Featuring poignant interviews with a who’s who of 60s folk luminaries, and searing performances by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, among many others, Laura Archibald’s doc illuminates one of those rare creative nexus points that defined an era. Between 1961 and 1973, musicians from all over North America (and further afield) converged on Greenwich Village to sing about the radical social upheaval of the time. As these new singer-songwriters emerged, the Village blossomed as a place that promoted a better future. Their music challenged the status quo, advocating for civil liberties, protesting the Vietnam War, and holding governments accountable for their actions.

On Sunday April 9, 1961, over 500 young musicians gathered in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square to sing folk songs to promote peace and harmony. This act of passive protest resulted in riot squads attacking singers and civilians alike with billy clubs, leading to several arrests. The incident became known around the world as the Washington Square Folk Riot and was cited as the first ’freedom of speech’ revolt. It also made Greenwich Village a beacon of hope for an entire generation. And this is just one of the important stories which make up the vibrant history of The Village music scene. Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation is the amazing untold story about the very people whose music helped change the world.

"Evokes the flavor of the era just before the music business exploded into a mass-market juggernaut. The film’s pleasures are the same ones offered by a sprawling, lavishly illustrated magazine spread." Stephen Holden, New York Times

"Makes you wish you’d been there too, hearing it all for the first time." Jay Stone,

"Irresistible…I t’s always irritating to hear New Yorkers refer to themselves as the centre of the universe. Except in this case they might be right." Susan Cole, Now magazine

O Canada: Words Of My Perfect Teacher (10th Anniversary Screening)

(2003, 101 mins, Digital Betacam)
In English
CAST Khyentse Norbu


From the World Cup to the mythical mountain kingdom of Bhutan, Words of My Perfect Teacher follows three students on a quest they hope will lead to wisdom. The catch is … the teacher. Soccer obsessed, charismatic filmmaker, and citizen of the world: Khyentse Norbu may be one of the world’s most eminent Buddhist teachers, but it’s a job description he slyly rejects at every turn.

Featuring appearances by Bernardo Bertolucci and Steven Seagal. Filmed in the UK, Bhutan, Canada, the US, and in Germany at the World Cup. Set to a world beat with music by Sting, Tara Slone & Joy Drop, Steve Tibbets, U.Man.Tek, Kunga 19, and others. Words of My Perfect Teacher is for those who wish they’d met Yoda or Merlin, and long for the opportunity to engage with a teacher who defies convention.

Words of My Perfect Teacher was made during the course of a year that included attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, months of tension as India and Pakistan went to the brink of nuclear war, multiple suicide bombings in Israel, a stock market drop that plunged the world to new depths of economic uncertainty, and the US war on Iraq.

If ever there was a time to inspire students to "wake up" and learn the wisdom necessary to engage in compassionate activity, this was that year. The film’s point of view is inspired by Buddhist philosophy — which says that we can’t really change human behaviour until we learn to deal with our mind. Because the mind is the starting point of all suffering, closed hearts, entrenched views and prejudice. And to study the mind, you need a teacher.

"Provocative and surprisingly fast-moving." Ken Eisner, Georgia Straight