Phörpa (The Cup)

dr.Khyentse Norbu
str. Jamyang Lodro, Orgyen Tobgyal, Neten Chokling

I thought a film about Buddhist monks with a football (soccer for the misinformed out there) obsession had some hope for humour. The previews made the film seem funny, but as often happens, previews are misleading. There are these exiled Tibetan monks living in India, and some of them love football so they sneak out at night to watch the 1998 World Cup. Two new monks arrive and are caught up in the frenzy. The superiors of the monastery either don't understand what all the fuss is about, or just find the situation intolerable, so there is a small battle of wills to see who will get their way. But it all turns out okay in the end like we knew it would, and there was even a message in there for all of us. How frikkin' nice. The film is written and directed by a Buddhist monk and, what a surprise, the film is really just an propaganda exercise to promote Buddhism. This isn't necessarily bad, the television show Monkey was a vehicle to propagate Buddhist philosophy, and it is most enjoyable, and often makes me hungry. But The Cup is just slow and tedious and showing the daily ritual of the monks exposes Buddhism as being just as bound by rules and dogma as any other religion, eg Christianity. I thought the point of propaganda films was to make your subject seem more appealing, not less appealing. For those people who haven't realised it yet, all religions are the same, some just seem better because they are new or foreign. The beliefs are the same, the stories are the same, the hypocrisy is the same.

The Cup would have been much better if it involved monks becoming fixated with professional wrestling. Then, rather than seeing young monks kicking around a can or wearing imitation football jerseys, we could see monks powerbombing each other through tables and attacking each other with chairs. At least the film would be exciting. Why isn't there a professional wrestler that is a monk or a priest?

Sebastian Niemand
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