The documentary Carving the Divine offers a rare and intimate look into the life and artistic process of modern-day Busshi – practitioners of a 1400 year lineage of woodcarving that’s at the heart of Japanese, Mahayana Buddhism.
The story opens as Master Koun Seki, the former apprentice of renowned Busshi, Kourin Saito, interviews a candidate applying to be Master Seki’s new apprentice. Quickly though, we discover this apprenticeship and the Būshi’s life in general to be far more austere, and far less glamorous, than we (or the Candidate) would’ve likely imagined.
Once Master Seki makes his selection, we’re taken on a trip through a guild culture unlike anything existing today in The West: From the growing pains of a novice apprentice, to the entire guild working together as one body to create breathtaking works of art, to the monkish practice of the famed, Grand Master Saito himself, alone on his quest to “leave nothing but great works behind.”
Born and raised in Japan, Yujiro Seki 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 enamored with the imaginative possibilities of cinema and vowed to master the art through study in the United States. Despite the fact that starting a new life in a new country was a challenge in itself, Seki earned a BA in Film from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a short film, Sashimi Taco, for his senior, honors thesis. Following his graduation, Seki moved to Los Angeles to work as a director of the video department for Intermarket Design, and as a film instructor at Montecito Fine Arts College of Design. After attaining permanent U.S. residency, Seki began studying full time in the Cinematography program at UCLA Extension. Upon graduating from that program, he embarked on the journey of making his feature documentary project, Carving the Divine: Buddhist Sculptors of Japan.