Projections - Movie Reviews

The Cup The Cup

The Cup is a fusion of the tradition of monastery life and technology, as represented by television.  Khyentse Norbu's film is set in Bhutan during the 1998 World Cup, the director known as an important incarnate lama in his native Tibet, has a knack to take this routine material and dress it up with a sense of making the world more accessible in its religious and contemporary approach that understands the mores of a distant land, with the same idiosyncrasies as those from the West.

Some may refute Norbu's cute film, inspired by actual events, as being in a new setting than other rite of passage comedies.  But, The Cup has the spirit of a cast that brims with truth of the characters of older and younger monks, who have had to flee from Tibet, or relatives of them who were sent by families to avoid the Chinese take over dating back to the 50's.

For all of its remote locales, and the actors who are all really monks, Norbu's fine work with his people in the foothills of the Himalayas has a soft, airy feel to it.  And as a coming of age film, it subtly shows Western civilization making its mark, as a humanistic appeal illuminates from the feelings generated from, maybe, the most hailed sporting event worldwide.

Although the narrative doesn't have the snappy pace of a World Cup match, it is engaging as a Tibetan monastery in exile acts as a metaphor with its sandy courtyard area being the location of young monks kicking a can of Coke like a soccer ball.  And some foreshadowing ensues with an older monk, endowed with deadpan rigor and smarts by Orygen Tobgyal.  His Geko shows it to the monastery's friendly, forgetful abbot (Lama Chonjor).

The Cup centers on two young monks, Orygen and Lodo, well played with zest by Jamyang Lodro and Neten Chokling, with Lodro delivering some quality humorous lines, especially with Tobgyal.

Orygen and Lodo help orient two young downcast Tibetan lads, Palden and Nyman, from the perilous Tibet, into the monastic life of Buddhism.  Their chance to see the Cup finals at a small Indian shop is thwarted by the stern Geko who sees an unholy rowdiness.

Yet, Norbu finds the rambunctiousness of these monks to create some convincing fun, though slow-paced, as the short-tempered, pint-sized Orygen and Lodo try to acquire a TV with a satellite dish into the monastery for the last big match.

The spiritual director of centers in India, Sikkam, and Bhutan emphasizes the encroachment of the western world on his Buddhist turf, yet he maintains a warm sense of humor, that is handled well as the culture of football is a fever that takes some pondering from the abbot to understand that all these people who fight over a ball just win a cup.  In his mystical mode of wisdom that Buddha admires, Norbu's holistic hand anoints this honorable lama a worthy amateur able to uphold tradition amid a playfulness needed for these young diligent monks to be boys.

The Cup