Ananda is sort of like a Buddhist Father Brown, except he has more first-hand knowledge
of the criminal element. The former police
detective intended to lead a peaceful existence as a monk, but homicide has
followed him into the monastery in Tom Waller’s Thai mystery Mindfulness and Murder (trailer here), which screens
this Saturday night as part of the 2013 International Buddhist Film FestivalShowcase in the Bay Area.
Ananda is a man to be reckoned with, but he had his reasons for leaving the
job, as viewers learn over the course of the film. When one of the boys in his monastery’s youth
shelter program is murdered, the Abbott asks Ananda to investigate. He will not be getting in the way of the cynical
Inspector Somchai, who closes the case half an hour after responding to the
call. It turns out the late Noi was a
hard kid to love, who was reportedly involved in the narcotics trade. Perhaps he was not the only one. Father Ananda soon uncovers rumors of drug-dealing
monks and undercover narcs. Suddenly, a
person or persons unknown have taken an unwelcome interest in Father Ananda and
his temple boy assistant Jak.
Mindfulness is one of the
most picturesque murder mysteries you are likely to see anytime soon. Cinematographer Wade Muller exploits the
exotic backdrop for all its worth. Similarly,
the monastic setting adds unusual wrinkles to whodunit. Solving the case is not merely a matter of
earthly justice for Ananda. There are implied karmic implications for the monastery.
Mindfulness is rather a bold
selection for the IBFF showcase. There
is the clear suggestion it is not unheard of for less savory individuals to
adopt monks’ robes as a means of gaming the system. Its portrayal of the Thai justice system is
also far from flattering. Yet, there is no
denying the virtuous nature of Father Ananda or the appeal of Vithaya
Pansringarm’s quietly engaging performance.
They are an actor-character tandem worthy of a franchise.
supporting cast is a somewhat mixed bag, but Ahbijati “Meuk” Jusakul is nicely
hardboiled as Somchai, while American-born Prinya Intachai has his moments as
Brother Satchapalo, the instant prime suspect.
For a random bit of celebrity, former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova
(currently based in Thailand) also briefly appears as herself.
tempo is hardly break-neck, which has its pros and cons. Although it might be limiting for genre fans,
the meditative tone perfectly suits the hero and setting. Indeed, watching Father Ananda struggle with the
demands of the spiritual and worldly is fascinating (more than even the crime
story itself). Recommended for those who
enjoy cerebral mysteries, Mindfulness and
Murder screens Saturday night (3/2) at the Smith Rafael Film Center, as
part of this year’s IBFF Showcase in the Bay Area.
the Showcase, patrons will also be inspired by Dafna Yachin’s Digital Dharma, documenting the efforts
of American academic E. Gene Smith to digitize and preserve the sacred and
secular texts of Tibet. Further
noteworthy selections include Victress Hitchcock’s When the Iron Bird Flies, a provocative exploration of the Tibetan
Buddhism’s surprising international growth during its unfortunate period of
exile, and Naomi Kawase’s visually dazzling yet deeply humane Mourning Forest. Check their website for times and venues
Labels: Buddhism on film, IBFF Showcase '13, Murder mysteries, Thai Film