Carving the Divine - Buddhist sculptors of modern-day Japan
Carving the Divine is a 2019 feature documentary by award-winning director Seki Yūjirō. Offering a rare and intimate look into the life and artistic process of modern-day busshi, practitioners of a 1400-year lineage of Buddhist woodcarving, the film tells the story of Master Seki Kōun as he interviews candidates applying to be his new apprentice.
Once he makes his selection, viewers are taken on a journey to witness the struggles of the novice apprentice, who quickly realises that the apprenticeship and the life of the busshi is far less glamorous and much more austere than initially imagined.
Life is demanding for all young busshi artists. The daily commitment required to master the profession proves too much for most apprentices. However, those that make it will become part of an exclusive guild that works together to create outstanding works of art. Moreover, successful apprentices ensure that the legacy of busshi continues to be passed down - something that cannot be taken for granted in a rapidly changing Japan.
The film also grants the viewer unprecedented access to the little-known rites of Shingon (True Word) Buddhism and, against the backdrop of the devastation of the Tōhoku tsunami, a profound insight into the nature of human perseverance through suffering.
Carving the Divine made the official selection for 29 film festivals across 22 countries, and has won awards at 12 festivals worldwide, including the Best Director Award of a Foreign Language Documentary at the Milan International Filmmaker Festival and Best Documentary at the Buddhist Arts and Film Festival in Boulder, Colorado. It also premiered at the 2021 Raindance Film Festival in London.
About Seki Yūjirō
Born and raised in Japan, Seki Yūjirō discovered his passion for film-making when he was in high school. Through making his first feature film, Sokonashi Deka (The Enigmatic Detective), he became enamoured with the imaginative possibilities of cinema and vowed to master the art through study in the United States. Despite the challenges of starting a new life in a different country, Seki earned a BA in Film from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a short film, Sashimi Taco, for his senior honours thesis. Following his graduation, Seki moved to Los Angeles to work as director of the video department for Intermarket Design, and as a film instructor at Montecito Fine Arts College of Design. After obtaining permanent U.S. residency, Seki began studying full-time in the Cinematography program at UCLA Extension. Upon graduating, he made his feature documentary project, Carving the Divine: Buddhist Sculptors of Japan.
Browse a selection of wooden crafts on the Japan House London Online Shop, including a Carved Wooden Rabbit from Hida Takayama.