….Aaaaaand that is how you magnificently edit a documentary about finding a one-year-old child in the sparsely populated and put upon country of Tibet, believed to be the reincarnated form of a hermetic grand master monk, Geshe Lama Gonchog (GLK). The documentary centers on the story of the assistant monk to the deceased master, Tenzin Zopa, who roams the country in his one-armed fuchsia robe, grieving and bewildered and incongruously at times wearing a North Face jacket because, let’s face it, these are the Himalayas. If you can calm yourself from checking statuses for a few hours you will probably be able to appreciate the tranquility and ancient sounds this story has to offer.
Central to Tenzin’s mission is the idea that a being as enlightened as the deceased master GLK, who dwelt in a cave for the last several decades of his life, can seamlessly transfuse his spirit into a newborn infant at the same time of his death and that that child will exhibit signs that he is his former self. Yes, we are speaking of the very act of reincarnation, an act central to the tenets of Buddhism and specifically the high monks of Tibet such as the Dalai Lama who have reached the Rinpoche status or above. Can this happen? Will the earth split in two? Will you look at your iPhone after the film is over and throw it in the river along with all your belongings?
As for gentle Tenzin, he is still walking backward from the loss of the GLK, the man he cared for and lived with from the age of 7. He was the grand masters most devoted disciple, geared to becoming a Lama himself and a prodigious scholar in his own right, deftly flowing from English to the several Tibeto-Burman Languages during the filming and acting as his own translator, spiritual guide and therapist. Openly crying while surveying the decrepit cave dwelling in which he lived with the master his spirit is almost completely transparent, neither hiding the need to cry nor displaying any shame in the act of grief. A dichotomous anachronism to the male archetype westerners are comfortable with even in a cloistered religious setting. Button up that lip. He doesn’t. He’s the better for it.
The landscape claws and devours the people. Remote to the point of needing a helicopter to attain entrance, mountains stand tall withholding secrets of ancient rites and rituals, of things you and I don’t understand. Of levels and inverse levels, of the unseen world. Verdant, fecund green hills cloak goats and brown, shiny faced cheeks. Babies needing to be checked and re-checked – offered the old masters beads as Tenzin studies them for any spark of recognition in their eyes, of the broad forehead and fatty cheeks he spent decades investigating and ruminating upon. Still nothing. Blank stares and cautious smiles. Countless villages and welcoming ceremonies, for they all knew the grand master who just passed and are all maybe half eager for their chubby baby to be the One. But only half eager. To be completely eager would be both wonderment and staggering grief when you know that you will have to give up that child to be raised in the Holy City, rarely to be seen again. The film is utterly captivating in its simplicity and perfection in its editing style. Rarely straying too long on a subject, the tempo is set as are the instructions to Tenzin handed down. Find the child. Find the child.