Thursday, November 20, 2008

Movie Review: Tantra of Gyuto (1974)

Tantra of Gyuto is a 50-minute feature documenting the 1974 London public performance of tantric rituals by a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks from Gyuto monastery. Produced by Snow Lion, one of the world's leading publishers of English texts on Tibetan Buddhism, the film maintains an air of objectivity and respect for the viewer, allotting ample to time to simply showing the monks doing their rites. The filmmakers follow the monks from their monastery in India as they prepare, and on through to their flight, arrival and performance in London. Unfortunately, we never have a chance to hear the monks speak for themselves, though we are treated to a short interview with a very young Dalai Lama, who appears to have been in London for the performance and discusses the propriety of public displays of tantric rituals. These are, it turns out, commonly conducted in public in their native context, ceremonies for blessing statues, paintings, sand mandalas and other sacred objects. In between the set-up and the performances, a brief overview of Tibetan history and Buddhism is presented, including some wonderful archival footage of the Tibetan countryside, Lhasa, and the Dalai Lama as he is examined on completion of his formal academic studies. This is a film worth adding to add to a Tibetan video collection, if you can find it. Though currently out of print, copies can be found circulating on the internet.



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