Thursday, June 3, 2004

On top of the world

I came across a piece in The Australian about director Khyentse Norbu.

I'm familiar with his movie, The Cup, about a young monk who is obsessed with watching the World Cup soccer matches. Beautifully filmed, it was just okay in my book, as it's a G-rated thing. Kinda dull. Though it has Vini Reilly's Durutti Column doing the soundtrack.

I also knew the director was from Bhutan, a tiny, isolated Himalayan kingdom.

But I never realized he was a monk. Not only that, he's "officially recognised as the reincarnation of a 19th-century Tibetan saint."

While The Cup didn't really hold my fancy, the director has now completed his second feature, Travellers and Magicians. This sounds interesting.

It is a slow, peaceful road movie about a Bhutanese officer who sets off, with his I Love New York T-shirt and a ghetto-blaster, for a new life in America and encounters some storytelling travellers along the way.

"The story is based on the true facts that in Bhutan, being a still-developing country, people wait at the roadside for many, many hours, sometimes days, just to get a ride," says Norbu. "And while they do that they spend their time telling stories, so that's what I tried to portray."

Travellers and Musicians will be shown at the Sydney Film Festival on June 15 and 17.

No Thai films are being shown at the festival. But being that Norbu is a revered Buddhist monk, there has to be a Thailand connection here somewhere. There is.

When not meditating or making films, Norbu runs schools in India, China and Bhutan, and assists charitable organisations trying to end child prostitution in Cambodia and Thailand.

"But my main job is teaching Buddhist philosophy – film is my part-time career," he told The Australian.

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