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Film review: A Little Wisdom makes world premiere at BIFFThe film is based on a true story of the lives of children in a Tibetan monastery.
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승인 2017.10.17  16:28:49
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▲ Busan International Film Festival By Injeongwon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

The 22nd annual Busan International Film Festival kicked off last Thursday, and if the first weekend is of any indication, this year’s edition has a lot on offer.

For more than two decades, BIFF has served to uncover some of the newest talent in the film industry, with filmmakers spanning the globe using the festival as an opportunity to showcase their talent with the rest of the world.

Saturday afternoon saw Chinese filmmaker Kang Yuqi make her directorial debut on screen with the movie A Little Wisdom.

Set in the confines of a monastery in Lumbini, Nepal, it chronicles the true life story of two brothers who were left there by their mother while still at a young age.

The main characters are Hopakuli, a five-year-old boy, and his older brother Chorten. The other children living in the monastery also figure prominently in the film.

Kang spent around two years living in the monastery with the children, and the film is her personal account of the things she experienced while she was there.

At first glance, one can already identify one of the main themes in the movie, which is the relationship between the two brothers, and their experience of growing up together without their parents.

Hopakuli is a mischievous boy who dreams of becoming a hero one day, but, as one of the scenes in the movie portrays, the one where he tries and fails to climb a tree, it shows he still has a lot to learn and that growing up is not going to be so easy. From the perspective of an adult viewer, it can be said that this is a great example to show children that patience is a virtue which must be learned if one is to succeed as they go through life.

Another scene where the brothers’ relationship becomes evident is just after Chorten beats Hopakuli after the younger sibling had made a mess and did not clean it up. This is a great example of an older brother showing his younger sibling the importance of discipline. However, it also shows that Chorten does, in fact, love his brother very much, but has great difficulty in showing his true emotions because he feels his only choice when interacting with his brother is to show his strong nature.

One of Kang’s main aims in making the film was also to portray the realities facing Tibetan Buddhism today. When seen in film, Buddhism is often romanticized, owing to the vast and beautiful natural landscapes seen in settings, but showing the difficulties that the boys face in daily life help to convey a different picture.

Symbolism also has a significant place in the film, as the sun and the moon are focal points of interest at different points in the story, and in particular, when day turns to night and night turns to day.

Both are important in Tibetan Buddhism, as it is believed that the sun represents the brightness of one’s mind, while the moon is an indicator of the clarity of one’s stable and compassionate mind, something which Kang tries to emulate through the characters in the film.

There is a particular scene in the movie when Buddhist art takes on significance as the viewer can see a depiction of a wall mural showing the Buddhist ritual of death, symbolized by a human-like figure being cut in half.

When one considers this art from the perspective of the children in the monastery, one can draw the conclusion that the path one must follow to become a monk is filled with hardships and challenges which must be overcome, as for the orphans, they have no one else to turn to but each other.

Regardless of whether one has a sound understanding of the tenets of Buddhism, the film itself is a celebration of the youthful spirit and exuberance of children learning how to grow up.

Kang’s work was very well received by those in attendance. It will have one more showing at the festival on October 19th at 1 p.m. at CGV Centum City 1.

Director: Kang Yuqi

Stars: Richen Sherpa, Chorten Sherpa, Sherpa Wangchuk, Khahhap Ghaya

Runtime: 92 min.

Genre: Documentary

Language: Nepali, with English and Korean subtitles

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