A review of ďTravellers & MagiciansĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: Not rated but could be PG for mildly adult situations. In Dzongha with English subtitles

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

 

The ethereal landscape of Bhutan is the star of this sweet but makeshift story of looking for greener grass on the other side.

A handsome dreamer (charismatic Tshewang Dendup as Dondup) isnít focused on the natural beauty of his homeland, just its plodding cultural sameness and a burning desire to seek fame and fortune (and the earthly pleasures of cinemas and restaurants) elsewhere.

A contact in America, where the streets are paved with gold, is just the excuse Dondup needs to pack his bags and hit the road.Which in the case of the tiny Himalayan nation means a series of frustrating connections that will lead to the capital city of Thimphu and the beginning of the rest of his life.

Lady luck is at odds with the restless traveler.He misses his bus and is left stranded on the roadside with a pair of wandering strangers; one a wry Buddhist monk with a colorful sense of humor and the other a traditional elderly apple seller.

Not content with wasting precious time, the monk spins an artful tale that becomes the parallel narrative to Dondupís thwarted attempts at flight. His is the story of another dissatisfied soul who seeks greener pastures outside of his stultifying culture by falling in love with the beautiful young wife of an old farmer.

Dondup begins to feel stirrings of similar feelings for the serenely lovely daughter (Sonam Lhamo) of a traveling villager and his eagerness to dispense with his dreary circumstances loses some of its heat.

Filmmaker Khyentse Norbu is a native Bhutanese whose debut film The Cup was an international hit.Travellers is more visually accomplished and more serious is nature though heartwarming to the core. Narrative doesnít break new ground but its breathtaking backdrop lends a fresh perspective.

With gauzy Buddhist spirit Norbu traces Dondupís path to enlightenment with mixed results that are nonetheless culturally engaging and gently amusing.