Ten years ago my younger brother gave up his money, his car and his house, and ordained as a Buddhist monk in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. His decision did not entirely come as a surprise to me, as he had been leaning towards Buddhism since his graduation from university a few years earlier.
We spoke at length about his choice of ‘career’, but it wasn’t until an elder monk from his community approached me about shooting a documentary during their 2011 US and Canada teaching tour with Thich Nhat Hanh that I really had a chance to experience monastic life for myself. At this point, I teamed up with my old friend and fellow film director Marc J. Francis and the film now known as ‘Walk With Me’ was born.
The experience of being on the road with the monastics changed my life in many ways. The practice of deep listening, sharing and living alongside the monastics moved me to dig deeper and to work harder to find ways to best represent their way of being on film.
We invested a lot of time in the film process to allow for experimentation and the chance to develop a cinematic language capable of communicating the actual lived practice of a life lived differently and mindfully.
We focussed on an experiential approach; to create a visceral and immersive experience which plunges the audience deep into the poetry of the present moment - a feeling so elusive in the reality of the daily grind.
When Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a life-changing stroke soon after we finished filming, it became clear that there would never be a chance to make a film with Thich Nhat Hanh and his community in this way again. We therefore felt a responsibility to accurately portray what we had experienced living with the monastics.