is age is hard enough without separatist violence. However, one resourceful
young novice Buddhist monk will also experience spiritual discoveries and existential
peril in American filmmaker Brian Perkins’ Golden
a Burmese language narrative, shot on location at a working provincial monastery,
which is now available on VOD from Kino Lorber.
Yin Witazara is not the biggest of the four novices, but nobody objects when
the abbot puts him “in charge” while he visits the nearest city on business.
Initially, the four boys enjoy their freedom from supervision, but they largely
keep to the same routine, because what else would they do in a rural monastery?
Unfortunately, the good vibes are short lived. Soon they start hearing mortar
fire from the hills and more alarming noises from the surrounding brush. Things
get desperate when the neighboring farmer stops delivering rice. For the sake
of his novice brothers, Witazara will venture out in search of food,
encountering insurgents and perhaps the spirits that feed off their violence.
Kingdom takes a mystical turn, but Perkins
never over-sells the supernatural elements. Frankly, the first act could well
appeal to admirers of Into Great Silence.
Yet, at its heart, his narrative is always about Witazara assuming
responsibility. Shine Htet Zaw is a striking natural, giving one of the
deepest, least affected performance you could ever hope to see from a youthful
thesp. As Witazara, he carries the film squarely on his shoulders. The young
lead also forges some easy camaraderie with Ko Yin Saw Ri, Ko Yin Than Maung,
and Ko Yin Maung Sein, who as Ko Yin Wezananda, Ko Yin Thiridena, and Ko Yin
Awadadema, respectively, always come across as convincing novices, because they
Bella Halben’s arresting cinematography is
perfectly suited to the stillness of the monastery and the archetypal magical
realism. Both the look and the ambient sounds of nature really transport
viewers to Burma (that’s what the Burmese still call it, so that’s good enough
for us), not unlike Scorsese’s upcoming Silence.
Throughout it all, Shine Htet Zaw emerges as modest but commanding young star.
Highly recommended for those who appreciate its coming-of-age and Buddhist
themes, Golden Kingdom is now
available on VOD platforms, including iTunes.
Labels: Buddhism on film, Burma, VOD