The Cup Movie Review
A movie of pure enjoyment, peppered with ever-so-slight political undertones, "The Cup" was written and directed by a Buddhist lama and tells the story of a monastery school in the grips of World Cup fever.
Based on real events, Bhutanese monk Khyentse Norbu used members of his own monastery as actors in portraying this lighter side of monastic life, in which one soccer-obsessed boy (Jamyang Lodro) turns watching the World Cup finale into a cause célebre among his cloister's monks-in-training.
A modest and surprisingly skilled effort, Norbu (who was bitten by the filmmaking bug while serving as a consultant on Bernardo Bertolucci's "Little Buddha") has a remarkable eye for cinematic beauty and crafty detail, and he brings a graceful sense of humanity and humor to the kind of characters usually portrayed on film as serious and serene.
With a disarming, "who me?" smile and enthusiasm to spare, Lodro plays Orgyen, a mischievous, 14-year-old monk-in-training who keeps a "shrine" to his favorite soccer players and frequently sneaks out at night to catch matches on TV in a nearby village. He reports the results to his fellow students, eventually causing a commotion that interferes with day-to-day prayers and lessons as the finals approach.
Two young recruits who have just escaped over the Tibetan border serve as the audience's surrogates in discovering the monastic lifestyle. They also quickly become Orgyen's allies in a campaign to persuade the elders that they should rent a TV and satellite dish so all the monks can watch the last game together.
Orgyen Tobgyal, another lama in real life, is distressed but equally amused as the school's disciplinarian, who approaches the Abbot (Lama Chonjor, real-life head of the Monastery where the film was shot) with the boys' proposal and finds himself having to explain the game to the old man -- who considers it curious and comical that nations would fight over a ball as a form of entertainment.
An interesting contrast to the Dalai Lama dramas "Kundun" and "Seven Years In Tibet," "The Cup" doesn't wear its politics on its sleeve and it doesn't aspire to be a haughty art film by any means. It's just an unaffected transporting delight that inspires ear-to-ear grins with its humble spirit.