A Little Wisdom
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TYPE: Documentary Feature
Through the eyes of five-year-old monk Hopakuli and share in his joys and sorrows as he endures the rigors of monastic life. A Little Wisdom is an intimate portrayal of what it means to be a child growing up in the birthplace of the Buddha.
A Little Wisdom is an observationally nuanced portrait of the lives of orphaned young monks living in an isolated Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha. Through the eyes of Hopakuli, a young novice monk, we search for transcendent insights on the relationships between brothers, between friends, between teachers and student, and perhaps most importantly, between the rough and tumble lives of adolescent boys and the austere religious environment they call home.
For as long as I can remember, I have been using drawing as a medium to explore the world surrounding me. I believe my background in drawing gave rise to my filmmaking practice as the combination of visual and sound parallels the use of a paintbrush on canvas. Both mediums involve not only a great deal of observation but also improvisation. As a practicing Buddhist, I attempt to embody the Buddha's teachings, and I apply it to my own process whether in filmmaking or drawing. The artistic intention of A Little Wisdom is recreating the emotional connection I had with the subject for the audience. Therefore, we try to avoid forced sentimentality by not using music or set up interviews to push the narrative forward. Instead, I utilize visuals, sounds, and hidden symbols to convey the mood, the sense of reality and the emotional connections. The narrative moves forward in three different timelines: the course of nature, Hopakuli’s dreams, and the lives of the other children monks. The message of A Little Wisdom is accessible to all audiences because the connection between brothers, friends, students and teachers are universal. The love between the two brothers is certainly universal and needs no translation. We constructed the film using the two key elements from Buddhism: symbolism and breathing meditations. As the film opens up with a quiet chanting ceremony, the first breathing meditation begins unconsciously that brings the audience to a calm mind to follow the journey with the Hopakuli and the story he is about to tell. Secondly, the nature in the film characterizes the Buddha’s teaching. For example, the crow is visualized in Tibetan Buddhism as an incarnation of Mahakala, the Tibetan protector of Buddhism, it keeps appearing throughout the film, as the nature of Buddha’s teaching is everywhere. The monkey from the wild that keeps returning to Hopakuli’s thoughts, and the monastery symbolizes the children’s untamed ‘Monkey Mind.’ As the Buddha said in the Dhammapada, ‘no one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path’ as Hopakuli kept walking on his path. At the end of the film, we see that both Hopakuli and Chorten continue t heir journey in their lives, and we as the audience are left behind to see them disappear out of the frame… My ambitions behind this film are driven by the need to tell Hopakuli’s story. Unfortunately, there are thousands of other stories just like his. I want the viewers to experience a journey of realization where they can reach their own conclusions. Leaving Hopakuli and the monastery, I felt as if I had left a piece of myself there. Lumbini as a place is not only a holy and sacred place, but it houses countless untold stories. I hope this film will help to bring awareness that the Buddhist community is no different than any other communities, and see the monks for what they are. So that we can be open and accountable on issues when reform and constructive action can be taken in place in the near future.
Yuqi Kang - Director/Producer
Yuqi was born in Inner Mongolia, and grew up in Beijing. Upon receiving her BFA in Drawing in Canada, Yuqi moved to New York City to pursue a career in filmmaking at the Social Documentary Program at the School of Visual Arts. Upon graduation, she received the Paula Rhodes Memorial Award with honors. A Little Wisdom is her first feature length documentary. Her shorts during the study at SVA were awarded for the Experimental Short Honor Mention at the Doc NYC and Best Experimental Short at the Accolade Competition. As an ethnic Mongol, Yuqi is passionate to continue her life work in exploring new cultures and people.
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