There are journeys that the proverbial “we” take. Family road trips (the mind boggles), cruises, flights to far off lands and those that are related to health and our well-being are among the most familiar of these “journeys.”
But the “journey” that award-winning filmmaker Zhang Yang chronicles in Paths of the Soul is one that is both breathtaking and at first difficult to fully understand.
The KimStim Collection, with sales and distribution support provided by Icarus Films, will be bringing this film festival favorite to the domestic DVD market place on Aug. 23. A limited arthouse theatrical run yields an ARR of 102 days.
Zhang Yang, whose films include Shower, Getting Home and Full Circle, takes us on a magical journey — one that is actually based on the annual Buddhist “bowing pilgrimage” to Lhasa, Tibet — with a disparate group of villagers. Each has their own reason for undertaking a 1,200-mile journey that requires them to stop every eight steps and completely prostrate themselves on the ground.
You read that right, every eight steps! Each of the travelers has wooden hand guards and is decked out in a leather apron, otherwise the constant stopping, kneeling and bowing would render their hands, knees, elbows, etc. a bloody mess.
They trudge along at six miles per day. When the money runs out, they stop — as a group — and work. If one of their members becomes ill, they stop and wait for that person to heal. It doesn’t matter if the delay is for a day or a week, they wait … and then return to the pilgrimage.
The journey, in a very real sense, cleanses the soul. Each member leaves the world they knew behind them and puts their entire focus into eight steps, bow, eight steps, bow … and all the while chanting and clacking their hand blocks together in rhythmic fashion.
This is Tibet and the landscapes are specular; the weather can be unforgiving and yet our pilgrims journey on. Paths of the Soul is a “road trip” that is well-worth taking as we come to know each member of the troupe; share in their quest … one that seems so odd at first and yet ultimately is rewarding on so many levels.
Paths of the Soul is presented in Tibetan with English subtitles.