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June 04, 2007

Aurora (Colorado) Asian Film Festival, Part 4

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Buddha's Lost Children
Mark Venkerk - 2006
Zeitgeist Films 35mm Film

Last January I wrote about the Thai film, The Golden Riders. At the time I was unaware that the film was inspired by an actual group of horse riding monks. Curtis, a film critic based in Bangkok had commented that a documentary of the actual group would have been better. Both of us being in Thailand at the time were unaware that the documentary had already been made and was just starting to be seen beyond the Netherlands.

The closing night film shown Sunday at the Aurora Asian Film Festival was a Dutch film about Thailand. And I feel mixed about Buddha's Lost Children as a choice for the festival, as well as concerns about the film itself. Considering that the only new Thai film getting something resembling a wide release is Dynamite Warrior, there are some other Thai films, including a couple I've seen, that deserve some kind of stateside theatrical run. What bothers me the most about Buddha's Lost Children is that it struck me as a tourist's eye view of Thailand.

The story of the monk, Kruh Bah, is of interest. A former boxer, Kruh Bah established his Golden Horse monastary in 1991, in northern Thailand near the Burmese border. Taking in young boys, many whom are orphans, he has educated the boys in animal husbandry and Buddhism. Some of the boys stay and become monks. Kruh Bah travels through the border area meeting with hill tribe families, and repairing Buddhist shrines.

It's a touching story to be sure, and one is impressed that Kruh Bah has taken on the drug smugglers in this part of The Golden Triange. But the filmmakers don't convey the conditions that the hill tribe people live in, where garbage is dumped in an open pit, all manner of animals often run free, and sanitation is minimal, if it exists at all. No mention is made that hill tribe people are culturally different from ethnic Thais, and do not have all the rights given to Thai citizens. It could be that this semi-glossy view was part of the condition of making Buddha's Lost Children. Buddha's Lost Children is a sweet, touching film. It also is less than truthful about hill tribes of Thailand.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 4, 2007 12:01 AM


Just getting caught up on your entries here. Good to know that the documentary had in fact been made, even if it is flawed.

Posted by: wisekwai at June 25, 2007 05:50 PM

I also think you omit to mention that the film itself highlights work that assists the hill tribes. You may recall that the little novices are hill tribe children themselves and their plight due to poverty, lack of food and basic care is quite clearly shown.

Posted by: thai messenger at October 17, 2007 03:05 PM