Luc Schaedler takes a critical look at Tibet via the story of iconoclastic monk Gendun Choephel in Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet. Recounting both national and personal histories, his documentary alternates between detailing modern Tibet’s efforts to rebuild its society in the wake of China’s brutal 1989 military offensive, as well as the story of Choephel, a rebellious monk (1903 - 1951) who spent his life championing cultural openness in a homeland determined to cling to its established religious and political ways. Through these two related strands, Schaedler exhibits reverence for Tibetan courage and solidarity while also arguing that the country’s close-minded disinterest in Europe and America—or any viewpoints that differ from the established canon—has, as Choephel contended, led to harmful stagnation and isolation. The director aims to dispel romantic Western myths about the gloriousness of pious, peaceful Tibet (which, in fact, has a long history of military strength), a seemingly valid endeavor that’s nonetheless hampered by Angry Monk‘s thin trove of written or photographic materials regarding its primary subject, who is mainly brought to life via the same few still pictures and talking head admirers/acquaintances. The exiled Choephel, who traveled throughout Tibet and India learning of various traditions, eventually created a Tibetan translation of the Kama Sutra and his country’s first written political history, making him a distinctly progressive reporter and historian, for which, unsurprisingly, he was persecuted by conservatives who reviled his enlightened attacks against the status quo. That he’s now revered in some intellectual Tibetan circles allows Angry Monk to end on a somewhat upbeat note, though any hopefulness is tempered by the fact that the country’s late embrace of modernity has come only via unwanted Chinese occupation, a state of affairs which suggests that cultural rigidity hasn’t just resulted in atrophy; it’s played a part in costing the country an opportunity for true, lasting independence.
- First Run/Icarus Films
- 97 min
- Luc Schaedler
- Luc Schaedler
- Golok Jigme, Thubten Wangpo, Tsering Shakya, Tashi Tsering, Alak Yongtsin
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