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In Nepal, a venerable monk, Geshe Lama Konchog, dies and one of his disciples, a youthful monk named Tenzin Zopa, searches for his master's reincarnation. The film follows his search to the Tsum Valley where he finds a young boy of the right age who uncannily responds to Konchog's possessions. Is this the reincarnation of the master? After the boy passes several tests, Tenzin takes him to meet the Dalai Lama. Will the parents agree to let the boy go to the monastery, and, if so, how will the child respond? Central to the film is the relationship the child develops with Tenzin. Written by
Complex, beautifully made, moving and thought provoking
Complex. moving, thought provoking and beautifully shot, with a great score.
I struggled a bit philosophically at first while watching, since I've been trained in a more western tradition of Buddhism, and don't take the concept of reincarnation literally. And I had an even harder time seeing a tiny child taken from it's family with no say as to his fate.
But then I realized that the documentary which is told without narration isn't taking sides on whether reincarnation is real, whether this child actually is the reincarnation of the former llama (there are some moments that seem to actively raise question, where it looks like the boy may being guided to give the right answers). It's simply displaying a way of life and a tradition that has gone on for hundreds of years. One that includes the cruelty of separating a child and his family, but that has also led to such important figures as the current Dali Llama, who has done so much for world peace.
And, in turn that leads to bigger, important questions about how we raise children. If we never forced children directions against their will at times, we might never have some of our greatest figures in religion, leadership, arts, etc. But in doing so, do we also in some way harm the soul of that child? Where is the line between freedom and tradition?
These are important questions, and the film raises them with skill and grace, without attempting to force an easy answer.
It's also the very emotional journey of the young monk charged with the difficult and uncertain task of finding the reincarnation of the man he loved and served for many years. Whether your beliefs, you can't help but care for this charismatic and vulnerable monk on his physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging journey.
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