By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The mere title of Bhutanese director/screenwriter Pawo Choyning Dorji's
latest film, "The Monk and the Gun"
might cause you to do a double take. After all, why would a monk need a gun?
Yet, Dorji's eye-opening, satirical movie--the follow-up to his 2019 Oscar-nominated, "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom"-- is a clever, thought provoking and downright fascinating drama.
"The Monk and the Gun," is set in 2006 over the course of four days. Bhutan, which is one of the world's youngest democracies, is gearing up their first democratic elections. Their revered King abdicated his throne after nearly a half-century to give the people the right to vote for the first time in their history. There are three parties represented in Bhutan. Most are eager to choose the Blue Party which represents freedom and equality.
The times are definitely changing. American culture is also permeating Bhutan. Children are increasingly intrigued by the Internet, television shows, and movies, especially James Bond actioners. They also love drinking "black water" their term for Coca-Cola.
But does everyone in this gorgeous and remote Himalayan Kingdom want such sweeping change?
There seems to be some reservation particularly from a Lama (Kelsang Choejey) who lives perched atop a mountain. The Lama insists his disciple/monk Tashi (Tandin Wangchuk) bring him two guns before the full moon rises. Even he is puzzled at the request, but obeys the order. The tone of the Lama--he wants the guns in time for the elections--and his demeanor make you wonder if he is planning to do something horrific during the elections.
Through a series of events, Tashi winds up getting a rare gun. He then crosses paths with an interpreter named Benji (Tania Sonam) and American gun collector Ron (Harry Einhorn) who is trying to find the Civil War-era gun in the region. He's willing to pay top dollar for it when he realizes Tashi has it.
Tashi isn't about to come back to his master empty handed. He refuses to give up the gun to Ron unless, he can get two AK-47s like the ones used in James Bond's "Quantum of Solace." Tashi has spent a lot time watching TV.
After some major wheeling and dealing, Ron is able to pull it off and get the coveted weapons for Tashi.
However, what happens next to Ron, Benji, and the rest of the Bhutanese citizens as the full moon rises, is stunning and "The Monk and The Gun" takes a major turn that you don't see coming but can certainly appreciate.
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Look At This Trailer For "THE MONK AND THE GUN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.