Travellers & Magicians (review)

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What a curious, beautiful film! Filmmaker Khyentse Norbu, who is supposedly the reincarnation of an important Tibetan lama, gifts us with a small gem that embodies not only the physicality of his gorgeous homeland — this is the first feature film to be shot entirely in the Kingdom of Bhutan, and a breathtaking land it is, impossibly green and ruggedly mountainous — but the spirit of the tiny Buddhist nation as well. Here, where the people struggle with the benefits and drawbacks of joining the 21st century and the king decrees that the Gross National Happiness be tracked, two connected stories unwind: In one, restless Dondup (Tsewang Dandup), eager to get to America, where he’s sure he can make lots of money, is forced to hitch country roads to make his plane. In the other, related by a sly monk (Sonam Kinga) Dondup meets on the road, a reluctant student of magic, Tashi (Lhakpa Dorji), is lost in a lush, dreamlike forest. There’s a cheeky, breathless vitality to both men, both stories, and to the film on the whole — it’s an exhilarating reminder to live in the now that will, paradoxically, haunt your memories.

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