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Giant Buddhas

DIR: Christian Frei
2005 / Switzerland / 95 min


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Recommend this film

We are in Bamiyan, the great valley in Afghanistan, where in February of 2001, the Taliban issued an edict that all non-Islamic statues be destroyed. By March, the Buddhas (At 53 meters high, one of them was the tallest representation of Buddha in the world) had been blown to bits. International outrage ensued and the hypocrisy of this is one of the subjects of Frei's beautiful inquiry.

Frei retraces the footsteps of Xuanzang, the 7thcentury Chinese monk famed for his 16-year spiritual quest along the Silk Road to India. Bamiyan was one of his pit stops. Xuanzang's journals tantalize with evocative descriptions of the Bamiyan Buddhas and tease with mention of an even grander Buddha at a nearby monastery. Estimated to be 300 meters long, it would be the largest statue in human history, an 8th wonder.

Fascinated by the legend of the "sleeping Buddha," archaeologist Zémaryalaï Tarzi begins to excavate, even as he decries the plundering of Afghanistan's history. The film also captures a kitschy attempt to rebuild the Bamiyan Buddha as tourist attraction in China.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Afghan writer and journalist Nelofer Pazira responds to Frei's letters during his journey and reflects on an old photograph of her father posing before THE GIANT BUDDHAS, while Frei follows the plans for high-tech reconstructions using "photogrammetry" and "anastylosis."

An essay about terrorism and tolerance, ignorance and identity, fanaticsm and faith.


Director Christian Frei
Dir. of Photography
Duration 95 min
Year 2005
Country Switzerland
Colour Colour
Tags essay, Middle East, religion, society, traditions
Production Christian Frei Filmproductions GmbH
Christian Frei Filmproductions GmbH
Country:  Switzerland


2nd Tel Aviv SPIRITS ...

2nd Tel Aviv SPIRITS Film Festival Cinematheque Tel Aviv May 14 - 17 2008

Internationales Berg und Abenteuer Filmfestival Graz, Austria November 7 - 10 2007 PREIS DER JURY Der Preis der Jury geht an "The Giant Buddhas" für die beispielhafte Recherche und präzise Darstellung von Hintergrundinformationen zu einem Thema, das durch die globalen Medien meist nur unvollständig transportiert wird.

PRIZE OF THE JURY The Price of the Jury goes to "The Giant Buddhas" for the exemplary research and precise documentation of background information on a topic which most often has been dealt with in an incomplete way by the global media.

International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival VERZIO Budapest, Hungary November 6 - 10 2007

9th Sichuan TV Festival Gold Panda Awards Chengdu, China October 27 2007 AWARD for Best Photography

Int. Festival of Films on Art FIFA Montréal Canada March 8-18 2007 AWARD for Best Reportage

Parallel Programs DaKINO International Film Festival Bucharest, Rumania November 20 - 25 2006

Film Competition Award Winners Banff Mountain Film Festival 2006 Banff, Canada October 28 - November 5 2006 Special Jury Mention "There is no more important film at the festival this year," says jury member Les Guthman. "The Giant Buddhas is a chilling meditation on the destruction of sacred art and culture by religious fundamentalists; a crime against humanity, of course, that is not limited to Afghanistan."

World Cinema - Documentaries Two River Film Festival Monmouth University USA November 4 - 6 2006

Special Presentation Miami University Art Museum Oxford, Ohio, USA October 19 2006

International Festival of Archaeological Film Rassegna Museo Civico di Rovereto, Italy October 4 - 7 2006

Settembre Musica Festival Torino Italy September 2006

"The Sacred" AVOSTANIS Regional Cultural Festival, Italy August 2006

Official Selection Tahoe/Reno International Film Festival A Force for Positive World Change August 23 - 28 2006 WINNER "Best of the Fest - Documentary" 2006

International Documentary and Short Film Festival Dokufest Prizren Kosovo August 9 - 13 2006 Winner Best Feature Documentary

ZIFF-Festival of the Dhow Countries Zanzibar International Film Festival Tanzania July 14 - 23 2006

International Film + Visual Arts Festival Ecofilms Rodos Greeke June 20 - 25 2006

International Film + Visual Arts Festival Ecofilms Rodos Greeke June 20 - 25 2006

International Film + Visual Arts Festival Ecofilms Rodos Greeke June 20 - 25 2006

International Film + Visual Arts Festival Ecofilms Rodos Greeke June 20 - 25 2006

Aloha! Maui Film Festival Wailea, Pazific June 18 - 18 2006

In Competition Durban International Film Festival South Africa June 14 - 25 2006

Festival St. Malo Etonnants Voyageurs "Orients rêvés, Orients réels" June 3 - 5

Official Selection Catalonia Environmental Film Festival Barcelona, Spain June 1st - 10 2006

In Competition - Feature Documentary Film Festival Planete Doc Review Warsaw Warsaw, Poland May 12 - 21 2006

Public Television Screening Conference INPUT 2006 Taipei, Taiwan May 7 - 12

Internationales Dokumentarfilmfestival DOK.FEST München Munich, Germany May 3 - 11 2006

In Competition Trento Film Festival Trento, Italy April 29 - Mai 7 WINNER SILVER GENTIAN TRENTO It all starts with a shocking news report on the loss of a world heritage, the giant carved Buddhas of Afghanistan, and evolves into a major film work of art. Based on complex and thorough research, it combines an international event with the very personal stories of people connected to it. It makes us consider the loss of cultural history and questions the role of media.

Official Selection San Francisco International Film Festival San Francisco, USA April 20 - May 4 2006

Documentary Feature Section Nashville Film Festival Nashville USA April 20 - 26 2006

In Competition Independent Film Festival Boston April 19 - 24 2006

Official Selection Singapore International Film Festival April 13 - 29 2006

"Golden Tulip" International Competition Istanbul Film Festival Istanbul, Turkey April 1 - 16 2006

International Competition DOCAVIV - tel-aviv international documentary film festival Tel Aviv, Israel March 30 - April 8 2006

ECU 2006 European Independent Film Festival Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris March 25 - 26 2006

In Competition - International Showcase Florida Film Festival Orlando USA March 24 - April 2 2006

International Competition It's all true - International Documentary Film Festival São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil March 23 - April 2 2006

World Cinema Section Bermuda International Film Festival March 17 - 25

Official Selection - Christian Frei Retrospective Environmental Film Festival Washington D.C. Washington D.C., USA March 16 - 26 2006

Official Selection - Images of the 21st Century Thessaloniki Documentary Festival Thessaloniki, Greece March 10 - 19 2006

Main Competition One World International Film Festival Prague, Czech Republic March 2 - 9 2006

Official Selection Bangkok International Film Festival Bangkok, Thailand February 17 - 28 2006

Documentary Views Portland International Film Festival Portland, Oregon USA February 10 - 25 2006

Official Selection - Reihe SPEKTRUM Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis Saarbrücken, Germany January 23 - 29 2006

U.S. Premiere - World Cinema Competition: Documentary Sundance Film Festival Park City, Utah, USA January 19 - 29 2006

Official Selection Solothurn Film Festival Solothurner Filmtage January 16 - 22 2006

Nomination Swiss Film Prize 2006 Best Documentary Film January 18 2006

In Competition cph:dox Copenhagen Copenhagen International Documentary Filmfestival November 04 - 13 2005 WINNER art-tv "KULTURPERLE" FIVE BEST SWISS FILMS 2005 "The Giant Buddhas" ist ein einzigartiges filmisches Essay, ein gewaltiger, herausragender Film in jeder Beziehung.

In Competition Valladolid (Spain) "Time of History" October 21 - 29 2005

Österreich Premiere - Official Selection Viennale - Vienna International Film Festival Official Selection October 14 - 26 2005

International Competition Dokfestival Leipzig Opening Film October 3 - 9 2005 WINNER "SILVER DOVE" LEIPZIG "The filmmaker has taken a recent hot, politically sensitive and highly symbolic news event and given us a thoughtful, well researched and beautifully filmed analysis of the complexities of the issue and cultural perspectives that stand behind the surface of the TV news."

Official Selection Vancouver International Film Festival September 29 - October 14 2005

International Premiere - Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival "Real to Reel" September 8 - 17 2005

World Premiere - Official Selection Locarno International Film Festival "Filmmakers of the Present" August 3 - 13 2005



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