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The Cup
Directed by Khyentse Norbu
Fineline Features
94 minutes, Rated G

Soccer, rather than the search for enlightenment, is the obsession among the sweet-faced young monks at the heart of The Cup, a new movie written and directed by Khyentse Norbu, a highly regarded Tibetan lama and son of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. The film, the first feature ever shot on location in Bhutan, will be distributed by Fineline Features in the United States. It opened on January 28, 2000.

Although the idea of a serious lama with “indie cred” will strike many as good content for a dada play, The Cupis not an absurdity but a quiet pleasure. In terms of cinematography, the movie may not compete with other, more mainstream, Buddhist-oriented films, such as Scorcese’s Kundun or Bertolucci’s Little Buddha. It is not an epic, but its smallness may be its greatest appeal. It skillfully depicts a familiar drama in a distinctly unfamiliar setting. The Cup invites its audience into the cloistered but surprisingly entertaining world of the traditional Tibetan monastic community.

The Cup is Khyentse Norbu’s first feature length film. He has spent most of his life fulfilling his obligations as a major lineage holder in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in 1961, he was recognized at the age of seven as the incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892). Norbu entered a monastery in Sikkim at the age of twelve and continues to make lengthy meditation retreats each year. He serves as the throne holder of Dzongsar Monastery in Eastern Tibet, and the spiritual director of two meditation centers in East Bhutan and Sikkim, and two Buddhist philosophy colleges in India and East Bhutan. He has also set up several of his own Buddhist centers in Canada, Australia, Asia and Europe.

At nineteen, Norbu saw his first movie on video and became a man obsessed. He gained some production experience in his early thirties, helping to make Little Buddha as an apprentice to Bertolucci. In Bhutan, where, until recently, there had never been a single television set, the film industry is typically viewed as a kind of netherworld of wickedness. Indeed, the fact that a lama has made a movie continues to be a source of some controversy there, particularly because Norbu is the grandson of the late H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, one of the most revered Buddhist teachers of the twentieth century.

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