THE MEDICINE BUDDHA, a portrait of one of Mongolia’s most venerated and loved spiritual leaders...
Not only is THE MEDICINE BUDDHA, a portrait of one of Mongolia’s most venerated and loved spiritual leaders, but it also paints an interesting picture of a country that in the west, few know that much about – Mongolia.
Above China, south of Russia, land locked, mountainous Mongolia, is quite remote from foreign eyes and for that reason alone, the film is well worth a look. The difficult, but stunning geography, wonderfully photographed by experienced, accomplished Director of Photography, Gerry Vasbenter, coupled with narration by Sir Ben Kingsley, give the film a classy, almost mysterious feel.
So, about Mongolia. After many years’ communism, the first democratic parliament sat in 1990, and the country has seen a steady return to religion like many countries that were once under Soviet/Maoist socialism. Slowly, the heartfelt principles of Mongolia’s colourful brand of Buddhism have become dominant again, and largely due to the efforts of their spiritual leader and healer, ‘Khamba Lama Natsagdorj.’ What a lovely, joyful man, this ‘Medicine Buddha,’ is too. Gentle faced, yet possessed with a strong will for healing his fellow men and caring for them, the film centres around his life and works. From a pilgrimage to the hills and plains and sleeping in a Yurt/Ger, which is a traditional accommodation tent, to lectures in modern hospitals in new cities, this one man’s approach to medicine, based on ancient teachings, has helped many.
The real delight of this gentle documentary is the visual, vivid snapshot of life...
Sure, there’s a lot of scenes that to western eyes, make the film seem more like a fan film about Khamba Lama Natsagdorj rather than a documentary, but there’s so many cultural points of interest along the way that it all ends up flowing along rather amiably. However, the real delight of this gentle documentary is the visual, vivid snapshot of life shown, in cities and in the wild places of this wonderful country. Alas, in explaining the culture, the film is often simplistic, and lacks dramatic depth, but for a nation just waking up from many years of submission to socialist politics, there is a genuine desire to show the country in the best possible light, and in this aim, THE MEDICINE BUDDHA, succeeds. It also might’ve been interesting to learn more about the man himself rather than just hear about how great he is: Yes, OK, he’s clearly great, but what made him so? What has been the challenges to his work? What was his upbringing like, his journey?
However, what is rather fantastic, is that the film was often shot in substantially sub-zero temperatures, which is a feat in itself and a credit to the accomplishment of the crew. It’s also a reminder of the tough resilience of the Mongolian people. The audio mix is great which helps the clarity of the visuals shine even more, as is the score. The film is a little on the long side for some, but the photography and sincerity of THE MEDICINE BUDDHA, so clearly shine out, that it’s very forgivable. So, sit back, enjoy the ride, learn about a great country, a lovely people and their tireless, positive, life reinforcing leader.
Britflicks saw the premiere of the, THE MEDICINE BUDDHA, at the Regent Street Cinema...
Britflicks saw the premiere of the, THE MEDICINE BUDDHA, at the Regent Street Cinema, London’s oldest cinema. Restored to its fabulous Victorian style, it re-opened in 2015 to champion and show independent films of all kinds, from all time frames. Visit: www.regentstreetcinema.com for info.