The Giant Buddhas

Director: Christian Frei

Institute History

  • 2006 Sundance Film Festival


In February 2001, six months before the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Taliban issued a decree calling for the destruction of all non-Islamic-related statues in Afghanistan. Despite resounding outrage from the international community, the world lost two of its most magnificent landmarks. A pair of enormous stone Buddhas, hewn from the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley more than 1,600 years ago, was blown to bits by Islamic fundamentalists.

With the destruction of the giant Buddhas as his springboard, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christian Frei (War Photographer) has crafted a luminous cinematic tapestry that entwines multiple narrative threads. Stunningly photographed by Peter Indergand, this thought-provoking documentary reveals the consequences of religious fanaticism as it exposes the hypocrisy of global indignation. With pulsing immediacy, Frei essentially collapses time. He retraces the steps of a Chinese monk who visited the Buddhas centuries ago, juxtaposing that journey with his own trip to Afghanistan and that of a modern-day woman from Toronto, who fulfills a lifelong dream to visit Bamiyan, the birthplace of her father. The Giant Buddhas is a stirring example of the power of cinema to enlighten as it defies the boundaries of culture and time.

— David Courier

Screening Details

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