Becoming Who I Was (2017) ****
Dir: Chang-Yong Moon. Co-directed by Jeon Jin | 95’ | 2017 | KOREA
After a boy is discovered to be the reincarnation of a centuries-old Tibetan monk, his godfather takes him on an epic and often arduous spiritual pilgrimage through treacherous and magnificent natural landscapes from Ladakh in India discover his Tibetan Monastery in this upbeat and sumptuously filmic Berlinale Generation Kplus winner.
Chang-Yung Moon’s debut doc – eight year’s in the making – is all about profound faith and unconditional love, but not in a worthy, intense way. Infact, this gently amusing and poignant buddie movie shows how a little boy called Padma Angdu gradually rises to his vocation and has great fun in the process with his friends and loving godfather in the remote and snowy mountains region of northern India and Tibet.
Rosy-faced Padma has a lot of spiritual responsibility on his shoulders – in the same way as a Jewish boy studies for his Barmitzvah or a Christian kid prepares for his Confirmation – Padma must study the holy scriptures in preparation for a formal ceremony from the young age of 6 until he becomes a “Rinpoche’ in his teens when he will rise in rank above his godfather Urgyan Richzan. Sometimes the pressure is too much for Padma and he is driven to tears but Richzan offers calm guidance and support as well as occasionally teasing him.
Moon serves as his own DoP but the striking aerial shots of mountainsides were actually achieved with the use of drones. There are also intensely personal moments where we see Padma at prayer and instruction in the brightly coloured interiors of his rustic mountain dwelling. Moon gives us access to the private world of the monks in this enjoyable and enlightening documentary portrait that maintains its allure and serenity while bringing us much closer to an understanding of what it is to be a spiritual ‘precious one’ or ‘Lama’ in Tibetan Buddhism. MT
ON RELEASE FROM 22 JANUARY 2018 | BERTHA DOCHOUSE | CURZON BLOOMSBURY