Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘A Little Wisdom’

Hot Docs 2018: Our Review of ‘A Little Wisdom’

Orphanages might seem like a tough place to be in but the ones in the Indian-Nepali border are different. They mostly serve as monasteries that take in boys. They give those boys enough freedom to play in the fields. And during that free time they don’t have to wear the Buddhist robes. That is great news for Hopakuli. Being five years of age, he is the youngest of the orphans who are also novice monks.

A Little Wisdom is director Yuqi Kang’s feature documentary debut. Qang doesn’t just put her spotlight on Hopakuli. She lets him share the screen with his older brother Chorten Sherpa. There’s also the monastery’s eldest boy, Vija. She shows some moments of insight while capturing these boys playing their games. What some see on the surface is an innocent game. However, in those scenes, Hopakuli shares dreams outside of the monastery. If such things are possible.

Kang, unfortunately, falls short of showing real perspective about the lives of these boys. There are a lot of scenes showing the marvelous fields and structures in Lumbini, Nepal. And she juxtaposes it with shots of, say, Hopakuli’s contemporary outfits. So the message here is that modernity seeps into young lives. It makes it difficult, then, for Buddhist teachings to penetrate their minds. I need more than that from this documentary.

The rest of Kang’s film then seems like a lot of filler scenes showing the boys do mundane tasks. She might have been aiming to show the monastery’s meditative side during those scenes. She might also be showing the kind of discipline that Hopakuli is trying to avoid. Although in his defense, he is too young for the responsibilities that an older monk gets. Nonetheless, Kang falls short on showing that flip side and much needed balance.

A Little Wisdom‘s first two screenings are at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. These dates are on April 28 at 3 PM and April 30 at 5:45 PM. Last show is at the Revue Cinema on May 5 at 1PM.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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