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Journey From Zanskar

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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(Dec 20, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

How far would you go to save your dying culture? Two Buddhist monks fulfill their pledge to the Dalai Lama to help save their dying Tibetan culture by leading a group of 17 poor children aged 4-12 on a journey from Zanskar in remote northwest India through the Himalayas. To seek an education... On foot. On horseback. By jeep and bus. - Whatever it takes. 30 years ago, when they were children, these monks walked the same path. The 17 children with them now may not return home for 10-15 years or more. This is the story of their incredible journey. Zanskar is one of the last remaining original Tibetan Buddhist societies with a continuous untainted lineage dating back thousands of years. In nearby Tibet and Ladakh, in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Nepal, traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture is either dead already or dying. The horror of Chinese government design in Tibet is being matched by the destruction of global economics elsewhere. Zanskar, ringed by high Himalayan mountains in northwest India, one of the most remote places on the planet, has been safe until now. But that?s changing. In 3-5 years a road connecting Padum, the heart of Zanskar, with Leh, the heart of neighboring Ladakh, will be finished. The route which previously took up to two days by car will take only 4-5 hours. As economic growth descends on Zanskar it will bring with it an end to this unbroken Buddhist social tradition. Will the native language, culture, and religious practice be able to survive? The Dalai Lama has instructed two monks from Zanskar?s Stongde Monastery to do everything in their power to insure that it does. The monks are building a school to educate the children from surrounding villages in their own language, culture, history, and religion. Presently, the government school teaches none of those subjects, and is closed most of the year. The nearby private school also doesn?t teach those subjects and is additionally unaffordable for the area?s poor families. At Stongde, along with indigenous traditions, the children will be educated in the best Western curricula. The monks are racing against the clock. While they complete the school they are also placing local children in other schools and monasteries in the city of Manali and beyond. This requires walking over a 17,500 foot pass.

About the Director

Frederick Marx is an internationally acclaimed, Oscar and Emmy nominated director/writer with 35 years in the film business. He was named a Chicago Tribune Artist of the Year for 1994, a 1995 Guggenheim Fellow, and a recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Special Achievement Award. His film HOOP DREAMS played in hundreds of theatres nationwide after winning the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first documentary ever chosen to close the New York Film Festival. It was on over 100"Ten Best" lists nationwide and was named Best Film of the Year by critics Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Gene Shalit, and Ken Turran and by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Ebert also named it Best Film of the Decade. It is one of the highest grossing non-musical documentaries in United States history.
It has won numerous prestigious awards, including an Academy Nomination (Best Editing), Producer's Guild, Editor's Guild (ACE), Peabody Awards, the Prix Italia (Europe's top documentary prize) and The National Society of Film Critics Award. The New York, Boston, LA, and San Francisco Film Critics all chose it as Best Documentary, 1994. Utne Reader named it one of 150 of humanity's essential works, and the Library of Congress recently added it to its prestigious National Film Registry. HOOP DREAMS (1994) is the film that first interested Marx in the welfare of teenage boys. BOYS TO MEN? (2004) distributed by Media Education Foundation takes that as its central theme. BOYS BECOME MEN, now in production, is the sequel, pinpointing initiation and mentorship as the solutions to the problems teen boys face.
In 1993, Marx received an Emmy nomination for HIGHER GOALS (1992) for Best Daytime Children's Special. Producer, Director, and Writer for this national PBS Special, Marx directed Tim Meadows of "Saturday Night Live" fame. Accompanied by a curriculum guide, the program was later distributed for free to over 4,200 inner city schools nationwide. THE UNSPOKEN (1999), Marx's first feature film, features stellar performances from Russian star Sergei Shnirev of the famed Moscow Art Theatre, and Harry Lennix, most known for GET ON THE BUS, BOB ROBERTS, TITUS, ER, and MATRIX. A hobbyist songwriter, in 1991 Marx recorded a number of his songs collectively known as ROLLING STEEL. Two of those 11 songs are used over THE UNSPOKEN tail credits and one is used in BOYS TO MEN?. THE UNSPOKEN and ROLLING STEEL are available through this website.
Having worked for a time as an English and creative writing teacher, Marx began his movie career as a film critic, and has worked both as a film distributor and exhibitor. He has also traveled extensively. He's lived in Germany, China, and Hungary. He's traveled repeatedly through Western and Eastern Europe, North Africa and Himalayan India. With a B.A. in Political Science and an MFA in filmmaking, Marx has coupled his formal education with a natural gift for languages, speaking German and some Mandarin-Chinese. His interest in languages and foreign cultures is reflected in PBS' international human rights program OUT OF THE SILENCE (1991), the widely acclaimed personal essay DREAMS FROM CHINA (1989), and Learning Channel's SAVING THE SPHINX (1997). He consulted on Iranian-Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi's feature TURTLES CAN FLY (2004) and was a teacher of renowned Thai feature filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
He brings a passion for appreciating multiculturalism and an urgent empathy for the sufferings of the disadvantaged to every subject he tackles. As his mission statement indicates (Bearing witness, creating change), his is a voice strong and clear, and profoundly human.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Gere, The Dalai Lama, Geshe Bobsang Yonten, Lonsang Dhamchoe
  • Directors: Frederick Marx
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: Tibetan
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Intention Media Inc.
  • DVD Release Date: December 20, 2011
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006JPT3AS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,896 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
A breathtaking experience - there is no other way to say it. This is a true story - a documentary - about the effort of a Buddhist monk under the auspices of the Dalai Lama to bring some children out of the poorest region of old Tibet and bring them to a Buddhist school. The problem is that they have to climb some of the highest mountains in the world to do it. And so the children, the monks, and some buddhist nuns on a pilgrimage begin the perilous journey. There is no guarantee that anyone will survive. The effort of these children, one as young as four years old, to climb these mountains is awe-inspiring. The need for education is critical - or else they will lead an entire life in poverty and ignorance.

Anyone interested in Tibetan Buddhism must see this. The perils, escapes, and hardship of the journey are humbling. The soundtrack is wonderful and can be purchased separately from "Amazon." I gave that soundtrack as a gift to a scholar of Eastern Religions and it was his favorite Christmas gift.
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Format: DVD
I loved the film.

Some of the previous reviews imply that the families and children in this film were manipulated by the filmmakers in order to make a good story. As a long-time acquaintance of the producer and director, Frederick Marx, I have some familiarity with the making of the film and would like to address the concerns these critics express.

As the film makes clear, the monks chose to walk for multiple reasons:

* To save money, which was very scarce

* Because they thought it would be SAFER than driving

* So the fathers could accompany the children

* Historically, walking is the main way people have traveled to and from Zanskar. It's as natural to them to walk this route as it is for us to get on the interstate and drive.

Later, they decide to take the more dangerous driving route because conditions prevented them from getting through on foot. They also borrowed against money they didn't have to make bus travel possible. Was it a mistake to not choose this route initially? Possibly. Watch the film and decide for yourself. Personally, their reasons made sense to me.

The scene of the children being left at the school is indeed gut-wrenching. This is the very difficult price the parents are willing to pay in order to give their children a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The parents are fully aware of this price. The monks talked it over with them, and the parents made their own decisions. The fact that they were willing to go through with this painful separation is a testament to how much preserving their culture means to those parents.

When the children meet the Dalai Lama, it is pure projection to say they are not happy.
Read more ›
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Format: DVD
This thought-provoking documentary shows a true tale of striving and sacrifice; it will alternately make you smile, cheer, and weep. The suggestion by another reviewer that the filmmaker should just whip out his wallet and save the world shows a complete misunderstanding of the role of the documentarian: it is to tell a truth ---which may be uncomfortable or inconvenient--- that can change the way we think about things. That the film crew made this journey alongside the people from Zanskar while hauling cameras and other heavy gear shows their willingness to break from their own comfort zone in order to raise the consciousness of viewers to the challenges and hardships that many in the world face every day; for that, I commend them. If it distresses you to see how a difficult problem could be solved with a little money, then please donate to a worthy organization ... or to a documentarian so he or she can tell a story that just may save some lives in the future.
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Format: DVD
Every child in American should watch this movie. And so should every parent. It gives an invaluable perspective on the lifestyle and opportunities we have because we were raised in America, truly the land of opportunity. Beyond that, it shows the incredible love parents have for their children and the sacrifices they are willing to make to help their children live better lives. How brave the children are! How brave the parents! You will be lost in this DVD and remember it always.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
Though it's a documentary, it feels like a well told story, replete with well developed characters, fantastic scenery and an adventurous journey fraught with very real danger and high stakes. The peek into the lives of Tibetan families and their relationship with the gentle monks is poignant and uplifting. There are powerfully uplifting moments and rare insights into one of the world's most peaceful cultures. The children are so admirable, and quite lovable. Very highly recommended.
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