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Lions Roar : November 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2006 111 LE GRAND VOYAGE, 2003, France/Morocco 108 min., subtitles; director: Ismaël Ferroukhi This is the tale of a devout Moroccan patriarch who, after thirty years of living in France, wants to undertake the hadj (pilgrim- age) to Mecca. The first of many obstacles presents itself when his traditionalist elder son loses his driver’s license and his younger son, the eighteen-year-old thoroughly Westernized Réda, must take his place. And so, in the name of spirituality, a tyrannical fa- ther and furious son find themselves confined, for many days, to the cramped space of a mechanically dubious car as they travel the 3,000-mile road, across seven countries, from Paris to Mecca. Told with a light touch and gentle humor, the quirks and hazards of the road unfold as the pair get to know each other. Why It Matters: Filmed during an actual hadj, this movie pro- vides rare access to Mecca, as well as being a metaphorical jour- ney from West to East. As father and son draw closer to their goal and join up with others who are also making the “effort” (the literal meaning of hadj) Réda finds himself in a world where his experience as a smart French teenager is no longer of value. This gives him some insight into how his father must have felt as an outsider in France. The journey teaches him to respect differ- ences and to explore ways to bind the modern and the traditional into a smoother path for both generations. MONGOLIAN PING PONG, 2004, China (Mongolia) 102 min., subtitles; director: Ning Hao; DVD release date: October 24 One day, Bilike, the young son of a traditional nomad family who still live in yurts on the vast grasslands of the steppe, finds a mysterious white object floating down a stream. His imagina- tion is immediately engaged as he tries to figure out what it can be. A golf ball glimpsed on a movie screen provides one false lead, while his grandmother’s suggestion that it is a magical and luminous pearl sent from heaven provides another. Bilike and his two best friends, Ergotov and Dawa, then travel to the local monastery, but even the venerable lamas are stumped. It’s not until Dawa’s father wins a TV and they learn about ping-pong that the youngsters begin to grasp that their “treasure” may be the “national ball of China.” Thinking they’d better return some- thing so important, they set off for Beijing. Why It Matters: An engaging account of the moment when a young boy’s mind suddenly opens to a world beyond the one he CULTURES OLD AND NEW MOVIES THAT MATTER: knows, presented in the form of a love letter to Mongolia. Set in a magnificent landscape that has changed little since the days of Genghis Khan, the story focuses on how the smallest details can spark us to question the world around us, while the answers re- veal something much bigger than we had at first imagined. LA PETITE JERUSALEM, 2005, France 96 min., subtitles; director: Karin Albou The charming Laura lives in tight quarters with her extended Orthodox Jewish family in the Little Jerusalem district of Paris. Every day she takes a walk in an effort to bring fresh air and clarity to the irrational physical demands of her body, for the unthinkable has occurred and Laura has fallen in love with a Muslim man. The eruption of passion pushes her into a situa- tion where she must choose between faith and desire. Why It Matters: Laura’s inner dilemma is mirrored on the streets of Paris, where synagogues are being fire-bombed and Jewish men are being beaten by street gangs. This is a quiet but persis- tent examination of ancient Jewish tradition rubbing up against a contemporary culture of desire. BALLETS RUSSES, 2005, USA 118 min.; directors: Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine Ballets Russes is the story of what happened to the world’s great- est ballet company after the death in Venice of its founder, the legendary Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872–1929). Leaderless, the original troupe quickly split into two competing companies: the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, run by dancer/ choreographer Leonid Massine, which made a relationship with Hollywood and began to hire North American dancers such as the famous Native American ballerina Maria Tallchief; and the Original Ballets Russes, overseen by Colonel Wassily de Basil, which eventually ran into financial difficulties. The centerpiece of the film is the warm, informative, and entertaining interviews with many of the surviving members of the company, now in their eighties and nineties, as they remember their glory years for the camera. Why It Matters: Diaghilev made ballet into a magical, if eva- nescent, art that sparked box-office wars between theaters on the international cultural circuit. Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky were his stars. Most of the great composers of the day, including BY ANGELA PRESSBURGER