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Travellers & Magicians

4.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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(Oct 25, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Two men, two women, two journeys are woven into an intricate tapestry of desires as Travellers and Magicians takes us on an adventurous emotional tour through the heartland of Bhutanese Buddhist culture. (Zeitgeist Films)


It would be churlish, to say the least, to find fault with a movie written and directed by a revered Buddhist lama who's recognized as the reincarnation of a great Tibetan master. Fortunately, Kyentse Norbu's Travellers and Magicians is a lovely film that's easy to like. Norbu, who is actually from Bhutan, made a splash with his first effort, 1999's The Cup. Travellers and Magicians has a generally similar theme (the sometimes humorous, sometimes discomfiting collision of traditional and modern values and cultures), but a rather different story. This one concerns Dondup (Tsewang Dandup), a young government official who feels trapped in his Bhutanese village and yearns to answer the siren call of America, a place that represents Shangri-La for people who already live in Shangri-La (author James Hilton was said to have used Bhutan as a model for that utopian land in his novel Lost Horizon). After missing his bus to Thimphu, the nearest bigger town, Dondup falls in with a group of other travelers, including a lovely young woman and very garrulous monk. As they walk and hitchhike through the breathtaking Himalayan landscape, the monk spins a haunting tale that, though laced with adultery and murder, still has obvious parallels to Dondup's. The pace of the film is leisurely, clearly a reflection of Bhutanese life. The story is simple, the message--an "is the grass really greener?" fable--not especially subtle, the ending predictable. What's more, the actors, perhaps appropriately, are non-professionals. But those things somehow add to the pleasure of the film instead of detracting from it, and the direction, editing, and cinematography (especially the almost sepia-toned look of the monk's story sequences) are first-rate by any standards. Travellers and Magicians, with extras that include a "making of" featurette and behind-the-scenes location footage, is a keeper. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • In Dzonghka with English subtitles
  • Making-of featurette
  • Behind-the-scenes himalayan location footage
  • Print interview with director Khyentse Norbu
  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Tshewang Dendup, Sonam Lhamo, Lhakpa Dorji
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films - Video Service Corp VSC
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ARG2RI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,707 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Travellers & Magicians" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian E. Erland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 18, 2005
Format: DVD
Note: Dzonghka with English subtitles.

Expertly written and directed by Khyentse Norbu, 'Traveller & Magicians' is an enchanting tale of self-discovery and the realization that ones' hopes and dreams are not always as far off as one might think.

Dondup (Tsewang Dandup) hates the life he leads in a remote Himalayan village. Even though he holds an important position he dreams of a life in America with a high paying job and an attractive, sexy wife. He constantly reminds his friends that there are no pretty girls in their small community.

He finally receives a letter from a close friend already in America who has arrainged Dondup's passage to the U.S.A. The only problem is he has only two days to get to the point of departure. Not an easy task considering the isolated, mountainous region of his village and the lack of modern transportation. He is forced to hitchhike the distance.

On the way Dondup is joined by a monk (Sonam Kinga), a drunk, an old man on his way to market to sell apples and another elderly man from Dondup's village traveling with his young and beautiful daughter Sonam (Sonam Lhamo) who has just returned from school to help her recently widowed Father with his rice paper business.

During the two day journey the intuitive monk discerns the inner turmoil within Dondup and his growing affection for Sonam. He cleverly weaves a wonderful tale about an imaginary young man named Tashi (Lhakpa Dorji) and his love affair with the lovely and married Deki (Deki Yangzom) in an effort to help the confused fellow traveller decide what path in life is right for him. By the end of the journey Dondrup has come to realize the truth of the monks statement, "What we hoped for yesterday, we dread today."

This is storytelling at its finest against the backdrop of the enchanting Bhutan countryside. A bittersweet look at life in transition. Very highly recommended!!
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Format: DVD
I reccomend that everyone see this, if not for the fact that it is a beautifully told story, but that, I believe, this is one of the few (if not the only) Bhutanese film released in the United States.

"Travellers & Magicians" doesn't rely on loud, boisterous special effects, airbrushed superstars or computer-generated chase sequences. What it does rely on is a believable plot line, an exasperated lead character, Dondup (Tshewang Dendup), who wants nothing more but to leave his tired Bhutanese village, go into the big city, and, ultimately leave for the United States. Dondup is dissatisfied with his government job, the fact that there are few (if any) cute girls for him to acquaint himself with, no movie theatres or restaurants. This is a universal plight that anyone from a small town (or village) can relate to, be they in Bhutan or in a small town in the flatlands of the United States. As he attempts to leave, during one of the village festivals, he encounters a monk, a fruit vendor, an elderly man and his daughter. They are all trying to hitch a ride, for various reasons. Although, the self-absorbed Dondup is, at first, rather annoyed at his unsolicited companions, he eventually becomes drawn into the monk's storytelling. In fact, he is so compelled to hear the conclusion of the story (parallel to his plight), that he allows the fruit vendor to leave on the next tour bus out, just to stay behind and listen to the conclusion.

This film examines "the grass is greener" view that we all share, regardless of culture. Is it really the environment with which we surround ourselves (the outer), or our own general outlook on life (the inner), that determines our ultimate satisfaction with life? Just something to ponder......
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Format: DVD
It's obvious that director/writer Khyentse Norbu had a statement to make - about his country Bhutan, about the Bhutanese film industry, and about finding happiness right where you are. Unfortunately, he can't deliver on all counts.

From the opening scenes the film is testament to the beauty of the Himalayan mini-state of Bhutan. Any film maker watching this movie must be running through his head all manner of scenarios to exploit the country's natural beauty. That Travelers and Magicians was made with local crew and cast speaks admirably to the abilities of the Bhutanese to create world-class film.

But the script reveals that Khyentse Norbu, while perhaps a great scholar of Buddhism, is not always a great writer of stories. His debut film, The Cup, was a charming tale built on an ensemble cast of mostly children, a simple story about monks infatuated with soccer who go to comedic lengths to watch live broadcasts of the World Cup.

Travelers and Magicians is a bit more complex. It's a story within a story, requiring the director to not only deliver on two fronts but to seamlessly weave from the two a unified whole. The film begins in modern Bhutan with Dondup, a young man infatuated with the USA and eager to escape the simple rural life of Bhutan. On the road to the capital of Thimphu, he meets up with a monk, who in Dondup is reminded of Tashi, a young lad restless for adventure. To while away the long hours of travel, the monk begins his story of long, long ago and throughout the film we cut back and forth between Dondup and the monk, and the tale of Tashi.

The fable is for all its soft tones, titled camera angles, and vivid colors, the more realistic of the two stories.
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