"The Sun Beaten Path" is set in Tibet, but not the mythical, mountainous, Lama-infested Tibet of legend. This road movie unfolds on the endless highways and tracks snaking through the eerily flat and barren Tibetan steppes, where you can see nothingness stretch away to the Himalayas.
Walking those lonely roads is Nyma (the ethereally handsome Yeshe Lhadruk), a near-silent, weather-battered wanderer who has exiled himself from his rural home for reasons revealed in flashbacks deftly inter-cut with his expiatory travels. He runs into a garrulous old man (Lo Kyi), who does his damnedest to look after the frequently unresponsive Nyma as they wander up and down the highways, all-the-while providing an earthy contrast to our protagonist. By the end, Nyma's self-abnegation is resolved in a beautifully understated pair of images.
"The Sun Beaten Path" requires a contemplative viewer willing to adjust his viewing pace, but its style is free of rote, art-house clichés. Director/writer Sonthar Gyal works some slyly subtle humor from the desolation of the landscape and how small even a big-rig can seem on these roads. In this terrain, all human affairs are seen in perspective. Gyal's command of space not only extends laterally, but also forward into the frame, following characters on their sometimes straightforward, sometimes tortuous outer journeys. This is Gyal's first feature film, and he has a very promising future.
"The Sun Beaten Path" won the Dragons & Tigers award at the 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival and is very much worth your time. It is a rare example of a film that is bleak without being depressing.
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