May/June 2018  (Volume 33, Issue 3)

One Mind

(2015) 81 min. In Mandarin w/English subtitles. DVD: $149 ($349 w/PPR). DRA. Juno Films.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Shot in the Zhenru Chan Monastery in China’s Jiangxi Province–a monastic village in a territory that is so rural the government allows it to remain open, despite official oppression of monks elsewhere–the illuminating documentary One Mind is a contemplative, quiet film. Adhering to a 1,200-year-old tradition, the Chan Buddhist monks living at Zhenru spend most of their days working, meditating, and living in silence, tending to the commonplace with a singular focus that is best described by the film’s title. Director Edward Burger succeeds beautifully in capturing that heightened focus that overcomes distractions of the mind. One Mind has no narration and the few conversations between monks captured here take place during relaxed moments–getting one’s head shaved, or discussing a crop schedule. Instead, the film immerses viewers in an array of images and sounds: wind blowing through a bamboo forest, rain splattering on a stone floor. Burger alternates close-ups with wide shots to both provide context and exude a sense of worldly oneness. While the monks clearly lead hard and rigorous lives, the film also strongly suggests the rewards of enlightenment. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)