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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 105 MILAREPA, 2006, India/Bhutan 90 min.; director: Neten Chökling; (subtitles) This is the first part of the story of Milarepa, one of Tibetan Bud- dhism’s most famous yogis, adapted for the screen by a contem- porary lama. The film concentrates on the causes and conditions that led Milarepa to search for mastery of traditional magic in the name of revenge. Director Neten Chökling was a stunt rider in Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s Travellers and Magicians, so he knows how to portray magic—and it’s not computer generated. Note how mist and dust are judiciously combined with modern technology to create an otherworldly effect. Why It Matters: Milarepa’s youthful curiosity and impetuous- ness combine in his search for answers to life’s deepest questions, which leads him eventually to the realization that there might be something more important than the whims and desires of his own ego. Magic wrongly used for personal gain is Part 1 of the story; we can’t wait to see how the director handles Milarepa’s Buddhist education and enlightenment in Part 2. UNKNOWN WHITE MALE, 2005, UK/U.S. 88 min.; director: Rupert Murray; documentary On July 3, 2003, alone on a subway train bound for Coney Island, a thirty-seven-year-old British stockbroker-turned-photographer lost all memory. The film recreates the first terrifying hours as a disoriented Doug Bruce wanders around before encountering police, who send him to the Coney Island Hospital psychiatric ward. There he is given the identity tag “Unknown White Male.” What follows is his journey of re-discovery, for Doug is in the unusual position of experiencing the world with the eyes of a child but the mind and body of a man. As a result of his experience, Doug seems to have changed, and his friends find him a nicer person. This leads him to question whether he really wants his old memo- ries back. This may be fine for Doug, but it affects his parents, his ex-girlfriend, and his former friends in most unsettling ways. Why It Matters: The fundamental question Doug asks himself and others is, “How much is our identity determined by the experiences we have, and how much is already there—pure us?” This film provides an extraordinary opportunity to explore the composition of personal identity and the relationship between memory and experience, how character is formed, and what happens when everything you know and understand about the world and yourself is suddenly gone. SEEING THE WORLD WITH FRESH EYES MOVIES THAT MATTER MACHUCA, 2004, Chile 120 min.; director: Andrés Wood; subtitles (U.S . only) Machuca is a sensitive, touching account of the tragic events of Chile’s 1973 coup, seen through the eyes of two eleven-year-old boys growing up in Santiago. Gonzalo Infante is a shy but bright child from a well-to-do suburban family, circumstances loosely based on the director’s own childhood. Pedro Machuca is a smart, fearless child from an illegal shantytown just a few blocks away. Watch the way the director builds the political and emotional tension as the children awaken to their circumstances, in parallel to the growing state repression. The backdrop of Chile’s volatility is presented via television programs that play in the background, graffiti the boys pass on their bicycles, and adult conversations they overhear. Why It Matters: As viewers, we’re always aware that the military coup against Allende’s government is lurking somewhere just over the horizon and that the two children are growing up in the shadow of anxiety and dread. At the same time, we experience the freshness and wonders of childhood. The film’s achievement is the way it pres- ents the bittersweet taste of those apparent divisions, showing how affection and decency can overcome arbitrary personal differences. MOUNTAIN PATROL (KEKEXILI), 2005, China 95 min.; director: Lu Chuan; subtitles Based on a true story, this film records the efforts of the volun- teers who patrol the Kekexili plateau in northwestern Tibet to stop the poaching of the rare Tibetan antelope, or chiru. In 1993, the murder of a volunteer patroller draws Ga Yu, a young and idealistic photojournalist from Beijing, to investigate. He accompanies the patrol on a gripping adventure that includes characters reminiscent of desperados from the nineteenth-century American West. Moun- tain Patrol was shot on the Kekexili plateau at 21,000 feet, under extremely difficult conditions. Look for stark vistas of impressive mountains and a bleached landscape of sand, light, and shadow. Note the way Ga Yu changes from an idealistic observer, distanced by the lens of his camera, into someone personally involved in the struggle. Be prepared for unflinching shots of thousands of rotting antelope carcasses, abandoned by the poachers after their pelts have been taken. Why It Matters: The story’s hook is the endangered antelope, but as the drama unfolds, we see that it has as much to do with man’s inhumanity to man as to his fellow creatures. Whether BY ANGELA PRESSBURGER