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January 03, 2007

The Golden Riders


Udom Udomroj - 2006
Pranakorn Films 35mm Film

The last Thai film released last week is a cute, if inconsequential story more or less about a couple of novice monks. Had The Golden Riders been more about the monks, and jettisoned the silly romance, it probably would have been a better film. Not that anyone would ever confuse this with something like Kim Ki-Duk's Spring, Summer, etc., although it should be noted that Udom actually had religious advisors according to the credits, while Kim's presentation of Buddhist monks came totally from his imagination.

A better film might have concentrated on the experiences of the chubby boy who goes from Bangkok to a small mountain village, to spend three months as a novice in a remonte monastary. Udom doesn't trust the dramatic or comic elements in this premise, instead adding a cute romance between a young man who also comes to work and teach at the monastary, and the cutie pie daughter of the village chief, the somewhat comic villain who exploits the area farmers. There is also a subplot involving a large cache of gold hidden on the monstary grounds.

There a periodic moments of inspired humor, such as a when a recording of Buddhist chanting is played loud enough to disguise that the young monks are actually sleeping. The monks and novices are given to spouting words of wisdom to each other, as well as those they encounter. One of the small moments that I liked was a nod to the cultural diversity of Thailand, with an abbot explaining that the villagers have their own beliefs and traditions. Still, this is not a film meant to be taken for more than entertainment. The Golden Riders is primarily populated by some good-hearted monks, but in terms of theology, this is close to a Buddhist version of something like Going My Way.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 3, 2007 08:47 AM


There is, apparently, an actual order of horse-riding monks in north Thailand. An even better film, might have been a documentary or docu-drama about them.

Posted by: Curtis at January 22, 2007 12:49 PM