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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 106 the film paints a positive picture of the Chinese occupation of Tibet or is a metaphor for China’s ongoing aggression against the Tibetan people remains ambiguous. The story filed by Ga Yu’s real-life counterpart prompted the Chinese government to establish the Kekexili as a nature reserve, and today the chiru population is increasing. PASSAGE TO BUDDHA (HWA-OM-KYUNG), 1993, Korea 136 min.; director: Jang Sun-woo; subtitles Hwa-Om-Kyung is Korean for the Avatamska or Flower Orna- ment sutra, which inspired former monk and political activist Ko Un’s novel Little Pilgrim, the basis for this film. The story follows Seong-je, a boy of about nine who, after witnessing his father’s cremation, decides to embark on a journey, ostensibly to find his mother, that turns out to be a metaphor for the search for enlightenment. This is a magical journey in the tradition of “Journey to the West” and so it has certain peculiarities: Seong-je has never seen his mother and he never ages (a traditional Bud- dhist outlook holds that an enlightened person retains the open and immediate perceptions common to children). Notice how the director moves between images of a misty, mythical world and the desolate landscape of modern rural Korea, presenting an aura of the sacred that is firmly anchored in reality. Why It Matters: This is a quiet and intelligent meditation on life that beautifully evokes the qualities of path and journey. Just as with a Zen koan that has no immediate answer but develops in our understanding over a period of time, Seong-je eventually ends up in the right place because he comes to realize that he was there all along. CHRISTMAS IN THE CLOUDS, 2001, U.S. 96 min.; director: Kate Montgomery Ray Clouds-on-Fire, the handsome and well-educated manager of an upscale but struggling tribal ski resort, dreams of sold-out suites and four-star reviews. A travel reviewer has just announced a surprise visit, and Ray is eager to get it just right. However, Tina, the attractive woman he takes for the reviewer, turns out to be his father’s online pen pal. Since none of them have met before and they all have certain expectations, mistaken identity plays a big part in what unfolds. Graham Greene delivers an exquisite performance as the resort’s vegetarian chef, who refers to the animal dishes on the menu with sorrowful loving-kindness in order to discourage meat eaters. Enjoy the film’s delightful brand of American-Indian humor as the plot unfolds, Ray and Tina fall in love, and the real reviewer questions not only the resort’s quality, but also his own sanity. Why It Matters: It’s so rare to find a seasonal movie that one can feel comfortable promoting in a Buddhist magazine. We liked this one so much that we’ve been waiting for the DVD release for five years. ♦