What is compassion in action? It can be as simple as greeting each person you meet throughout the day as an old friend. It can be as big as dedicating your life to helping the poor and the sick in Kolkata, India. But, if you’re not sure how to take compassionate action, the second annual Compassion Film Festival and Symposium is the place to find out.

The festival is the brainchild of John Chopel Bruna, an ordained Buddhist monk and founder of Carbondale’s Way of Compassion Foundation. For him, compassion means relieving suffering and being a force for positive change.

“Great compassion is the fuel for Buddhists,” says Bruna. “When it’s ‘me’ and ‘them,’ it’s an effort, but when it’s ‘we’ and ‘ours,’ it’s energizing.” That’s why the festival is a dream come true for Bruna. It gives audiences a chance to find out just what they can do to be that force for positive change. “You don’t have to have a lot of money to take compassionate action,” he explains. “Each of us can do something.”  

The theme of this year’s festival is The Power of We, as reflected by films, speakers, workshops, and music. Feature documentaries include “A Sacred Journey” by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Ernesto Quintero (who will be on hand for a Q&A), “So We Dance” by French filmmakers Pascale and Julien Marckt, and “A Miracle a Day,” about a refuge for women and girls in India. Fifteen short films have been selected so far.

Reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community is paramount this year.

“We’re bringing in Valentín Mendez from Puebla, Mexico,” says Bruna. Mendez founded and directs the Instituto de Ciencias para el Florecimiento Humano. “We are pretty much mirrors of each other in terms of our work,” adds Bruna. “He does the same thing I do, only in Mexico.”

Local workshop leaders include Reverend Wendy Huber, therapist MaryMike Haley, Carbondale Community School teacher Lynne Cassidy, Focused Kids founder Kathy Hegberg, and life coaches Anna Cole and Ardis Hoffman. Topics range from how to treat trauma to compassionate painting and parenting to deconstructing privilege as a pathway to kindness. Continuing education certificates are available for most workshops.

Of course, the festival wouldn’t be complete without morning yoga and music by Carbondale favorite Let Them Roar.

Bruna hopes the festival will counter current tensions created by national and international class and cultural warfare, political and social divisions, and the specter of a wall between Mexico and the U.S.

“When people have their needs met, they’re not stealing your car or blowing people up,” he says. “Building walls does not fix that. Helping people helps all of us.”

Mark your calendar for August 9-11 at the Third Street Center in Carbondale. Tickets and program information for the 2019 Compassion Film Festival and Symposium are available at CompassionFest.world.