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Paths of the Soul (2015)

Kang rinpoche (original title)
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Docu-drama follows the journey of a group of Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lasa, the holy capital of Tibet. The journey covers 1,200 km on foot, in a continuous repetition of prostrating ... See full summary »

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Docu-drama follows the journey of a group of Tibetans on a pilgrimage to Lasa, the holy capital of Tibet. The journey covers 1,200 km on foot, in a continuous repetition of prostrating one's self on the ground. Over 10 months, we see the simplicity of human relationships and the nature of family, suffering, and resolve. Written by wanderingstar

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22 April 2016 (USA)  »

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Paths of the Soul  »

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Unusual road trip (very literally). A heartwarming pilgrimage tour. We only remember this from stories told by our (grand)parents
8 May 2016 | by (Amersfoort, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival (IFFR) 2016. The description of the movie was not very welcoming, so I looked for a seat next to the door so that I could sneak out when loosing interest. But I was fully mistaken in my prejudice, and sat out the almost-two-hours running time without a problem. The pilgrimage tour is a daunting undertaking indeed, to leave home, family, relatives, and the village where you lived all your life, for a journey that spans nearly a full year and covers 1,200 miles on foot. We see the changes in seasons and landscapes every now and then, implicitly demonstrating the distance and time span.

The extraordinary way the pilgrims are moving forward, by throwing themselves to the ground every 7 or 8 steps, may be something that we find peculiar, or an excessive form of devotion at best. But my Roman Catholic background helps me a bit in understanding this, in spite of never having participated in any of such rituals myself. I know of several relatives having undertaken a pilgrimage to e.g. Lourdes, Kevelaer or Santiago de Compostela, to name just a few well known destinations in Europe. The underlying No-Pain-No-Gain philosophy is fundamental to the Roman Catholic religion. It can be serving as penitence for past sins, or praying to recover from an illness, or asking for anything else wanted very badly. Undertaking the journey on foot was known to earn much more "bonus points" than using a modern transport vehicle. Though no Catholics are involved in this movie, the basic principles look similar. We even see them going back and re-doing part of the trip on foot, after the tractor that carried their luggage broke, and they got a lift to a town nearby for repair.

Apart from the obvious religious reasons for such a journey, as mentioned by one of the pilgrims as his reason to go along, it offers an acceptable way to see other parts of the world, broadening their horizon after having lived within the village they never left. The latter is something that I recognize from past reasoning of family members after announcing a pilgrimage to e.g. Lourdes. Going on a holiday abroad may be common nowadays and no exception when done yearly, yet it was very unusual at the time, at least for working class people.

The heartwarming aspect of the journey grew on us gradually. The pilgrims are welcomed by people they see underway, usually to be invited to join their meal or to use their house for the night. Conversely, they invite others to join them in their tent when the weather is deemed too cold, or they assist people working on the land when those demonstrate hospitality and ask them in to stay the night. The implicit reciprocity and willingness to help other people, even completely unknowns, leaves a warm impression on us viewers, at least it worked on me. Nowadays this is not a matter of course anymore, as growing mistrust between people stands in the way of such social behavior. I left the theater with warm feelings and gave the highest possible marks for the audience award. Many agreed with me: I learned afterwards that this movie got a very high place (4th, out of 178) with average score 4.568 (out of 5).


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