In Becoming Who I Was, preconceived notions of Buddhist monks are challenged when directors Chang-Yong Moon and Jin Jeon focus their camera on the exploits of a young Rinpoche, a little boy who is believed to be the reincarnation of a much-honored Tibetan monk. This is another excellent documentary that has allowed me to expand my knowledge of Buddhism at Hot Docs ’17 (see my review of A Cambodian Spring for its depiction of a video activist monk).
Living in the mountainous region of Ladakh, India, the boy, Padma Angdu, attends the same village school as his friends, and can be seen getting into mischief. Here is this boy, who has big shoes to fill, being called a scaredy-cat by his best friend and sledding down a hill. Yes, the books and obligations are still there, but so is the infectious smile.
Another heart-warming aspect of the film is Padma’s relationship with his godfather, also called uncle and teacher, who is the village’s doctor. Certain events will unfold towards the end of the documentary, that show this doctor to be a man more wise and physically hale beyond his hard-lived years. The country doctor too, is not above a good old-fashioned snow fight and the love between the boy-monk and his guide and servant is one to be remembered. Yet when the country doctor is away on a trip to make some money healing the locals, the boy-monk finds himself causing trouble at home. He almost burns the house down and invites his friends over for a party. Really, how much more relatable can you get?
A good documentary doesn’t need to tell you everything, but it should arouse your curiosity about the world around you. This one certainly does–especially with regards to Chinese-Tibetan relations, which affect Padma to this day, since his previous form lived in Tibet, and he is denied access from India by the Chinese government.
Sun, May 7, 3:30 PM Toronto Centre for the Arts