Pure Land

    Pure Land - a Documentary Film

    A spiritual journey of two Japanese Buddhists living outside New York City and their everyday practice to awakening

     NY, United States
    This is a Fiscally-Sponsored Project

    Fiscally Sponsored by Fractured Atlas


    Miki Nakura is a 55-year-old Japanese Buddhist priest living not far from New York City in Fairview, New Jersey. His dedication to Buddhism, which originally started after his father’s death in his early 20s, has brought him many miracle encounters in his lifetime. One such encounter was with a 91-year-old Japanese immigrant, Toni Katz. When they met, Miki was immediately inspired by Toni’s dramatic story. 
     In post-war Japan, 62 years ago, Toni met an American soldier, fell in love, and moved to the Bronx, New York with their first daughter. Since that day, Toni’s life was all about being strong – as an immigrant, as a wife, as a mother and as a grandmother. She was one of the first Japanese women who married an American citizen after the war. International marriage was so rare at that time that she didn’t have many resources that made her understand different values of a traditional American family. She had to carefully judge others and surrounding situations to attain everything she needed based on what seemed right and wrong. But this strategy was often exhausting, because in reality, how things would turn out were out of her control. 

    For Toni, this chance encounter with Rev. Miki was a call to change. She started attending Miki’s services, and one day, she asked if Miki would like to live with her and her husband, Bernie. She thought living with a Buddhist priest would help her to embrace a Buddhist way of living, which later made her realize impermanency and egolessness: innumerous causes and conditions determine every existence in this universe, so nothing can be achieved by one’s self-centered mind.
    Miki took the offer with humility, and it’s been five years since Miki moved into Toni and Bernie's house. Every morning, Toni attends Miki’s Buddhist service in her own living room, and they meditate together. Through listening to Toni’s own interpretation of Buddhism, Miki found the Buddha-nature in Toni, which seemed to be only waiting for its full bloom. At the age of 91, Tony is experiencing her full religious consciousness for the first time. Her journey with Buddhism has just begun.

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       Toni and Bernie Katz                                    Rev. Miki Nakura


    This is a story about two Japanese Buddhists living together and their daily practice to awakening. Everyday life is full of worries, anxieties, and fears. We are living uneasily in the middle of all these sufferings. Awakening in Buddhism refers finding solutions for these matters and the state of mind, which set us free from the realistic wants and fears. 
    Instead of an intellectual approach to understand the awakening, we visit Miki and Toni at their home and become part of their space and time through the lens of a camera. Outside the house they live in, we see Rev. Miki’s life mission to introduce Buddhist philosophies among different communities in New York. 
    This film touches on Toni’s immigration story along with her exploration with Buddhism. A layer of the story, which revisits Toni’s past 60 years after her marriage, weaves present-day footage with archival photographs and Toni’s voice-over to bring light to her transformation. 
    Toni is fully content with this encounter with Miki and Buddhism because even at her age she could fully discover who she was and what really mattered to her. This film intends to let their present moments to roll out, and have the viewers cross over to the other side where limitedness and relativeness in our society cease to work against us. 

    The filmmakers

    Director / Cinematographer

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    Nori Mizukami
    is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he earned the MFA in Social Documentary. His debut short documentary, 18 seconds, was screened at festivals throughout the United States and it won the best documentary short at the Harlem International Film Festival. Besides his career in the US, he worked on TV documentary and news programs in Tokyo at NHK, Fuji and TBS. He has been working on a number of indie film projects both non-fiction and fiction in New York, and his work has taken him to many other states and across the globe to France, Australia and Mexico. His second documentary film featuring blind photographers in New York, What's Invisible, will begin its tour to support artists with disabilities in 2018.

    You can visit Nori's website at


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    Ma Luyao is a documentary filmmaker, a cinema studies researcher, and a reporter for cultural events based in New York. Her first documentary short Morning (2015) was premiered at Chinese Documentary Festival and traveled to New Narratives Film Festival in Taiwan. Born in Beijing, the experience of growing up in different parts of East Asia gives Luyao a passion to learn stories of others. Recently, she produced a documentary short, Where We Live, which is about Japanese American women in New York, 75 years after the Executive Order 9066. Luyao is also the editor of Brooklyn Bleuz (2017), a web series featuring Black communities in Brooklyn.

    Director's statement

    I first met the Shin-Buddhist priest, Rev. Miki Nakura, in the summer of 2016. At a bookstore in Midtown, I came across an open invitation to a meditation gathering organized by Miki, called “quiet sitting.” That night, I wrote to him “In the search for my return to Buddhism, I’m writing to you as my thoughts naturally arise. I don’t remember since when, but I cannot avoid putting myself first living in New York City…” 
    Before I moved to New York five years ago to attend a film school, Buddhism was a part of my life for a long time. I had attended to two Buddhist schools in Kyoto since I was 5 years old, and growing up, I was naturally surrounded by many temples and accustomed to having a pocket to escape when life became too stressful. But after five years of living in New York City, I felt  spiritually homeless. As I was looking for space to breath, I realized that I had lost my roots to Buddhism.

    With this film, I want to suggest options to design our own life without being hindered or stressed out by what we encounter. Many of us struggle with forces outside of our control and our society that prioritizes capitalism and materialism makes us narrow our views to the outside world and eventually prevents our minds to be free. But this natural state of mind is so crucial for any creativity.
    I’m not suggesting a life of a monk who lives deep in the mountains. The Shin Buddhism (Pure Land Buddhism), which Rev. Miki and Toni practice, was actually founded and designed for people who lived in the city back in the 13th century. Whatever spiritual journey you choose in your life, the film Pure Land will help you to see the world through the perspective of the Japanese Buddhists who have found the gateway to emotional freedom, love and compassion. 

    Your role
    We started filming with Miki and Toni in April 2017, and currently we are raising funds to complete the principle photography in April and May 2018. This includes the cost of a professional sound person with equipments, the crew’s accommodations and food, their transportation and hard drives to store the footage. 

    Your donations will be allocated to the following:

    • Professional crew (1 x location sound, 1 x field producer): $5,000
    • Hard drives and media: $1,000
    • Travel, accommodations, food: $2,000
    • Admin fee (website, editing software): $2,000 

    * Breakdown of the budget in excel is available. Please simply ask for it by email,

    Even if you cannot help us financially, please spread the word or share the link with people who might want to join the community to complete the film.

    A word on gratitude

    We immensely appreciate your support regardless of the amount of contribution. Any donation will let us to take a big step toward completion of the film. 

    Personally, I want to thank all my friends who have supported and worked on the film. I want to express my gratitude to Miki, Toni and Bernie who have welcomed me into their home and given me an access to this amazing story. 

    Developing this film, I have learned that the greatest wisdom can be found by simply listening to someone's story. My motivation to create this film is to share the wisdom with the world through language of cinema because I believe many people wonder better ways of life. 
    Thanks for accompanying with us for this journey, and I look forward to sharing this wonderful experience with you.

    Nori Mizukami 


    Gassho: Greeting

    Donate $10.00 or more

    Amount over $2.00 is tax-deductible.

    Thanks for making this generous contribution! We will express our gratitude via Thank You mail and social media shout out. 

    Nenbutsu: Recollection of Buddha's name

    Donate $50.00 or more

    Amount over $10.00 is tax-deductible.

    Making a film is filmmakers' journey which you don't often see. As our deepest gratitude, you will receive behind the scene pictures of the production, so that you can check out how the film was made! Plus, thank you mail and social media shout out.

    Jihi: Compassion

    Donate $100.00 or more

    Amount over $20.00 is tax-deductible.

    As our sincere gratitude to your compassion, you will receive a Pure Land original postcard signed by the director, plus all the previous perks.

    Tariki: Other Power

    Donate $250.00 or more

    Amount over $20.00 is tax-deductible.

    Your generous donation made a difference to what we could achieve during our principle photography. Your name will be listed under special thanks in the completed film credits. Plus all the previous perks. 

    Hongan: Original Vow

    Donate $500.00 or more

    Amount over $100.00 is tax-deductible.

    We will share a link to the digital online screener once the film is completed. You can watch Pure Land at home with your family and friends! Plus all the previous perks. 

    Engi: Chance Encounter

    Donate $1,000.00 or more

    Amount over $150.00 is tax-deductible.

    We deeply appreciate your love and compassion for bringing this film together. You are now part of our creative team, who made it possible to share this experience with the world. Let's celebrate the birth of Pure Land together. You will receive an invitation to a private screening event of the completed film and after dinner with the filmmakers. Plus all the previous perks.