Journey from Zanskar: Geshe Lobsang Yonten, Hero of the Himalayans
(trailer here), which opens in New York this Friday.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, “Geshe” is an honorific bestowed on the completion of an advanced course of academic studies. As a Geshe originally from Zanskar, Geshe Lobsang Yonten keenly understood the value education and was alarmed by the lack of opportunities for children in his native region. Identifying Zanskar’s most promising children, the Geshe and his order arrange their enrollment at a school in Manali, where they will be taught both Tibetan and western academic curriculum. However, getting there will be a trick.
The most striking aspect of Journey is the charisma of its subjects. Though the trip wears on the Geshe as well, he exudes indomitable charm and remarkable optimism throughout their odyssey. Likewise, the kids all seem to have smiles that could light up any room. Their spirit is best represented by a scene late in the picture, when one boy tasting his first sample of nuts ever, reaches over to share with Marx.
Journey might be somewhat manipulative, but it absolutely works. Audiences will definitely root for these kids and feel for their parents, who essentially must give them up for years, in order for them to have better opportunities in life. Marx, best known as one of the filmmakers of Hoop Dreams, also deserves credit as a documentarian (along with primary cinematographer Nick Sherman), both for enduring the elements and exhaustion for the sake of the film, as well as for scrupulously keeping himself out of the picture, instead focusing exclusively on the monks and the children.
savezanskar.org. A genuinely moving, highly recommended film, Journey begins its regular New York, Oscar-qualifying theatrical engagement this Friday (9/23) at the Quad Cinema.