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While the soccer World Cup is being played in France, two young Tibetan refugees arrive at a monastery/boarding school in exile in India. Its atmosphere of serene contemplation is somewhat disrupted by soccer fever, the chief instigator being a young student, the soccer enthusiast Orgyen. Prevented by various circumstances from seeing the Cup finals on television in a nearby village, Orgyen sets out to organize the rental of a TV set for the monastery. The enterprise becomes a test of solidarity, resourcefulness and friendship for the students, while the Lama, head of the monastery, contemplates the challenges of teaching the word of Buddha in a rapidly changing world. Written by
Can we cover the earth in leather so it's soft wherever we go?
So what can we do?
Wear leather sandals?
Yes, wearing leather sandals is equal to covering the earth with leather.
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In the 1950s, the Chinese invaded Tibet, killing one fifth of the six million inhabitants and destroying over 10,000 Buddhist monasteries. Today, Buddhism is strictly forbidden in Tibet and even owning a picture of the Dalai Lama is a crime. Consequently, many families send their children to monasteries-in-exile in India and Bhutan in order to receive a traditional Buddhist education. The Cup is set in such a monastery, at the time of last World Cup.
Orgyen (Jamyang Lodro) is a young monk who is obsessed with football. When he isn't pretending to be Ronaldo or discussing the World Cup in the middle of prayer, he is planning to see the next game in the local village without getting caught by Geko (Orgyen Tobgyal, Jamyang Lodro's father in real life), the father-figure disciplinarian of the monastery. With his friend Lodo (Neten Chokling), he quickly persuades new arrival Palden (Kunsang Nyima) to join them, while Geko and the Abbot (Lama Chonjor, real-life Abbot of Chokling Monastery, where The Cup was filmed) try to maintain discipline and fathom the rules of the game.
Directed by Khyentse Norbu, a first time feature director and important Buddhist figure himself, The Cup features an all-monk cast, none of whom had any acting experience prior to filming. Essentially a documentary about monastic life, The Cup nevertheless shows the realities of the Tibetans' political situation and combines serious issues with a more light-hearted style. It is genuinely witty in places and with great performances from Jamyang Lodro and Orgyen Tobgyal, always a pleasure to watch. The foothills of the Himalayas are beautifully photographed and the score is appropriately inobtrusive. On what is usually described as a 'shoestring budget' ('sandal-strap' might be more appropriate) Khyentse Norbu has created a lovely little film that deserves all the success it can get.
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