A Little Wisdom
Young monastic life in the heart of the Buddha’s birthplace
5-year old Hopakuli is lazy, cheeky and forever disobeying his elders. He is one of the young, orphaned monks living in the isolated Tibetan monastery of Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha. As Hopakuli and his brother Chorten learn to endure the rigours of monastic life with their fellow orphans, they find escape in the power of their imaginations, the rough and tumble of their boyhood a constant challenge to the regimented religious environment they call home. Beautifully crafted, this stylish documentary is an intimate immersion into the universal truths of youth.
Hopakuli is the youngest, but he doesn’t let this stand in his way. “I’ve done it all and heard it all”, he declares proudly. His blustering extends to his self-proclaimed tree-climbing prowess. “This is way too easy for me”, he boasts. “Only if you guys had my army training, you would be able to climb like me.” It is only when he makes the mistake of looking down from his lofty perch that his self-assurance drains away. “You said that you were a hero”, another boy gloats. “Now you’re just a zero. Hopakuli is chicken!”
Hopakuli has grand aspirations – but they are rather at odds with his monastic upbringing. “I will get a job and I will be brilliant at it”, he foresees. “I will work very hard and make a lot of money. I will have to store it in the bank. I'll have so much money the Bank of Nepal won't be able to hold it.”
Hopakuli’s elder brother Chorten also resides at the monastery. The boys get on in the unique way of siblings, quick to fight and argue but quicker to protect. “My brother is a friend to me but I get mad at him sometimes. I have much love toward him”, says Chorten. The two brothers have no other biological family. “Our father passed away in an accident during the rainy season. He was hit by lightning. I don't know anything about our mother, she visited me maybe once. I have never heard from her since. I enjoy living in the monastery more than my house anyway. I want to become a great monk.”
The arrival of a rogue langur, apparently intent on causing as much chaos as possible, brings a rare episode of excitement and peril for the novices. “Everybody take cover!” one boy shouts. “Monkey alert, monkey alert! Go to hell! He's coming this way, run, run!” The peaceful ambience is broken for a while as the reprobate primate is ushered from the premises.
Vija, one of the eldest novices, has doubts about where his path lies. “In life some get happiness and some just get sorrow”, he reflects. “There is a saying in Tibetan: Bad luck will follow the ones who cast off the monk’s robe. I am about to turn 15 now. Sometimes I feel trapped between two roads. I am confused about my future.”
This reflective documentary charts the day-to-day life of the novices within the monastery, gently shedding light on the juxtaposition of religious doctrine against the natural unruliness of the boys, and muses upon where their futures might lie.
Reviews and More
“This absorbing cinematic film... welcomes us into a world that we never thought a mischievous child could reveal.” – Best Canadian Feature Hotdocs 2018
“Kang has made a film that’s rich in its appreciation of the vagaries of life” – POV Magazine
"the enchanting mix of arresting visuals... discover meaning within the ordinary" – Hammer to Nail
For a Q&A with director Yuqi Kang, see here.
BUSAN International Film Festival - Official Selection
SXSW Film Design Awards - Excellence in Poster Design
Hot Docs - Best Canadian Feature
CAAMFEST San Francisco - Official Selection
Asia Pacific Screen Awards - Official Selection
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Official Selection