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copyright ©1999-2000

flick pick | The Cup (PhŲrpa) 1999
Directed by: Khyentse Norbu
Written by: Khyentse Norbu
Starring: Jamyang Lodro, Orgyen Tobgyal, Neten Chokling
Language: Tibetan [with English subtitles]
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The verdict: / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis At a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India, where the monks have found themselves living in exile since the Chinese invasion of their country decades earlier, the elders keep their bags packed, ready to return to their homeland, even as the years pass and more and more families smuggle their young boys out of Tibet and into the monastery for sanctuary. Itís a constant struggle to instill the old Buddhist values and teachings in the young monks-in-training, who, shaved heads and flowing robes aside, are as irrepressibly mischievous as any other boys their age. And itís the soccer-mad Orgyen [Lodro] that stirs up the most trouble, as he pores over soccer magazines, daydreams about being his favorite soccer star Ronaldo, and starts up forbidden impromptu games of soccer during chore time. When the 1998 World Cup commences, Orgyen and his friends canít resist sneaking out of the monastery nightly to watch each match on a tiny little TV in a shop in the village. But when the head disciplinarian catches them one morning, itís the end of those evening excursions. So resourceful Orgyen, determined to catch the final between Brazil and France, comes up with a plan to bring the game to the monastery.

Review I picked up The Cup expecting a sports movie, which was a mistake, really. There arenít any close-ups on fancy footwork, no on-field squabbles, and you wonít find yourself rooting for some heroic team as it experiences crushing defeats and the eventual, inevitable, redemption of victory. In fact not much really happens in The Cup Ė this is, after all, a movie whose climactic moment involves getting a TV into a monastery. There are a few subtle laughs (though itís not nearly as funny as Iíd been led to believe), some lovely scenery, and a sweet playful tone to the film, but itís the insider-aspect of the movie that makes this slow, quiet movie worth sitting through . Written and directed by a real monk, shot in an actual monastery, and featuring a cast of monk-cum-"actors", this may well be the first movie youíve ever seen about Tibet as told from a Tibetanís point of view. As such, itís less concerned with the politics of the situation than with the more human aspects of what it means to be a Tibetan Buddhist. And what strikes us most about the young monks is how ordinary they are Ė a little self-centered, occasionally frivolous, but mostly just curious about the world beyond their sheltered walls. And the adults are like any grown-up responsible for the upbringing of children, concerned about how the temptations of the modern world can fit into traditional beliefs. By focusing on a very specific, rather mundane event in this monastery-in-exile, Norbu manages to make a statement about how human beings the world over are united more by what we have in common, than by those little differences that we allow to become wide gaps of misunderstanding. ó reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun 

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