Carleton College Presents Screening of Documentary Film, “Souls of Zen: Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan”

Souls of Zen

Carleton College will present a special screening of the one-hour documentary film, “Souls of Zen: Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan,” on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Boliou Hall auditorium. Following the screening, filmmaker Tim Graf will lead a Q & A session. Nearly two years after the disaster, Graf is showing the film at colleges around the country in order to spark a dialogue with religion scholars and students. The public is invited to this free screening, with a goal of raising awareness of Japan’s ongoing recovery process, along with supporting area fund-raising activities for disaster victims.

“Souls of Zen” looks at the state of Buddhism in Japanese communities affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that devastated the country in March 2011. It draws on ethnographic fieldwork to examine the lives of both lay practitioners and Buddhist clergy and is the only documentary focusing on Buddhist professionals in the disaster area. The filmmakers visited cities and rural areas as well as monasteries, temples and public festivals to document what they call “the greatest religious mobilization in Japan’s postwar history.” “Souls of Zen” looks at the challenges posed by the 2011 disaster and reevaluates the complex role of religion in Japanese society.

Director Tim Graf is a research associate at the Institute of Religious Studies and the Collaborative Research Center “Ritual Dynamics” at Heidelberg University. His research has focused on the changing nature of Buddhism in contemporary Japan and the intersection of religious practice and modern society. Graf co-directed “Souls of Zen” with Jakob Montrasio, a filmmaker based in Germany who is the founder of MK Media Productions and has worked with high-profile corporate clients like Dell and Microsoft. Graf and Montrasio initially intended “Souls of Zen” to be about Zen Buddhist prayer monasteries, but after the 2011 disaster the film evolved into its current form.

More information about the film, including a trailer, can be found online at

This event is sponsored by the Carleton College Office of the Chaplain and the Departments of Asian Studies, Religion, and Cinema and Media Studies. For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact Sandy Saari at (507) 222-4232.