Thursday, January 7, 2016

Journey From Zanskar (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Tibetan Monks Take You To “Zanskar”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Tibet is a world away, a mountain kingdom that has enticed those seeking meaning to their life to make the arduous journey over the Himalayas to the homeland of the Dalai Lama.

But no need to call your travel agent. The Drepung Gomang Monks are coming to you tonight at the Tropic Cinema.

Key West Tara Mandala is hosting an evening of enlightenment and wonder. At 6 p.m. you will encounter a Tibetan Marketplace in the theater’s lobby. At 6:30 p.m. you’re invited to join the monks for Tibetan Tea and Pastries. And at 7 p.m. there will be a special one-night-only showing of “Journey from Zanskar.”

Narrated by Richard Gere, the documentary takes you to Zanskar, a land that due to its geographical isolation has been protected from cultural change. Ringed by high Himalayan Mountains in northwest India, Zanskar is one of the most remote places on earth. So far, it has been less corrupted by the Chinese incursion than nearby Tibet or Ladakh.

But that is shifting as the world intrudes. Within five years a road connecting Padum and neighboring Ladakh will be completed. To prevent the cultural heritage from being lost, the Dalai Lama instructed two monks from Zanskar’s Stongde Monastery to select 17 children to be educated in the old ways. This training required the children to make a difficult ten-day trek to a school on the other side of the snow-covered mountains, ascending through 17,500-foot-high passes, following ancient trails. These children won’t return home for 10 or more years. The monks who guide them made this same journey 30 years ago.

This slow-paced trek -- on foot, horseback, and yak -- is a race to save the land’s native language, culture, and unbroken Buddhist traditions.

Produced, written, and directed by Frederick Marx, “Journey from Zanskar” is like taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip. An accomplished filmmaker, Marx is best known for his 1994 Oscar-nominated documentary, “Hoop Dreams.”

The Drepung Gomang Monks will be here following the screening to answer any questions from the audience.

Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries. Gomang is one of the colleges located at the monastery, housing some 2,000 monks. Much of the old monastic town was destroyed when Chinese arrived in Lhasa in 1951. The 14th Dahlia Lama fled to India during the ensuing Tibetan uprising.  Drepung Monastery (its name means “Rice Heap”) was shut by Chinese authorities in 2008, but reopened in 2013.

All profits from tonight’s event will go to the Drepung Gomang Monastery.

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