When modernization swept through the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India, in the 1960s, its traditions began to suffocate: its art, language, and ceremonies, even the ways that people related to each other. But one citizen, Morup Namgyal, refused to let Ladakh’s rich cultural heritage disappear entirely. He soon began a project to preserve one slice of the region’s identity: its folk music.
Set against Nepal’s 10-year civil war, Kalo Pothi (The Black Hen) tells the tale of the unlikely bond between Prakash and Kiran, boys from different castes who set out on a quixotic adventure. During a temporary cease-fire they start raising a hen, hoping to make money selling eggs. But when the hen goes missing, their search for her forces the boys to confront firsthand the country’s violence and their own grief, anger, and fear.
What are the costs of economic progress? Behemoth travels through Inner Mongolia to show the answer in unflinching detail: hillsides blasted for mining; the blistered hands and diseased lungs of the miners forced to do this work to survive. Following the trajectory of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the film reveals the stunning, and ruinous, effects of unbridled greed on a nation’s land and people.
When Nob, an aging Thai villager, loses his job, his son, and his wife in quick succession, he turns to drink to soothe his pain. As he wanders drunkenly through Thailand’s dense jungles without hope or purpose, an encounter with a solitary forest monk sparks a desire in him to rectify his failures and commit to the monastic life. This award-winning drama is a story not of redemption but of renunciation, and it offers a rare look into a Thai forest monk’s ascetic practice.
Where does creativity come from? The documentary Moving from Emptiness explores this question by profiling the life and work of influential Zen calligraphic painter and art teacher Alok Hsu Kwang-han. Armed with rice paper, ink, a brush, and a collection of Zen teachings, Alok helps his students access their own creativity.
The Legacy of Menla tells the tale of three Indian women diagnosed with cancer who, flouting the wishes of their friends, families, and doctors, eschew Western medical advice to instead follow an ancient form of treatment: traditional Tibetan medicine.