The Cup
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

This is a great little film.  And this is the first film I've ever seen that is in Tibetan with subtitles!  The Cup is set in a Tibetan Monastery in India made up of refugees who have fled their homeland.   The title of the film comes from the fact that it is set at the time of the 1998 Football World Cup in France.  Two of the boys training to become monks  (Jamyang Lodro and Neten Chokling) are obsessed by the World Cup and sneak out at night to the nearest TV set to watch the matches. However, they are caught by Geko (Orgyen Tobgyal) who is a senior lama at the monastery and he sentences them to extra work in the kitchen.  Also, caught up in the World Cup intrigue are two other boys (Kunsang Nyima and Pema Tshundup) who have just fled from Tibet.  The boys persist and it turns out that Geko is also a football fan so it is decided that they will rent a TV so everyone at the monastery may watch the Cup final between France and Brazil. This  film is a joy to watch and all the actors are excellent. So, it was amazing to find out that not only was the film shot at an actual Tibetan monastery just inside the Indian border but the entire cast were members of the monastery playing themselves.  The Abbot of the real Monastery (lama Chonjor) plays the Abbot in the film. Tobgyal, who plays Geko, is an actual incarnate lama and chief preceptor of the Chokling Monastery.  The youngest of the boys, Jamyang Lodro, who really carries this film with his enthusiastic acting, is in real life the son of Tobgyal and studies at the Buddhist school in the Monastery.  The other boy, Neten Chokling is recognized as the 4th reincarnation of a great Buddhist master and is one of the highest incarnate lamas.  The director, Bhutanese filmmaker Khyentse Norbu is also an important incarnate lama.  Norbu's only previous film experience, other than watching films, has been working under the direction of Bernardo Bertolucci in the film, Little BuddhaThe Cup has a slow and deliberate pace which echoes the tempo of monastic life. The juxtaposition of Tibetan monastic life with the World Cup frenzy really captures both how isolated from the rest of the world and how connected to the rest of the world the Tibetan monks and students are.  And it brings home in a very nice way how these Tibetan boys, even though their culture and apparently everything about them is strange to us, are boys just like boys everywhere.  The Cup is a very simple story of east meets west but it had a powerful effect on me.  And the amateur cast, particularly Jamyang Lodro, make watching this film a wonderful experience.  The Cup had a very limited theatre release last year but you can get it at your video store now, even if you live in Baton Rouge.