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 > summer special 2000
For the year 2000

GOVERNANCE
The Best Government Reformer
How Asia Is Governed
The Best Local Administrator
The Best Activist


BUSINESS
The Best Dealmaker
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The Best Airport
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ENVIRONMENT
In Tune with Nature
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THE WIRED WORLD
The Hottest Video Game
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POP CULTURE
The Hottest Fad
The Hottest Toy
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The Best Movie
The Best Short Film

 

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The Best Movie


Asiaweek Pictures.
With refreshing humor and beautiful scenery, Phörpa follows sports fever in a Tibetan monastery.

The Bhutanese-Australian comedy Phörpa (The Cup) is a film about goals — spiritual, cultural and athletic. The plot ostensibly revolves around the efforts of Orgyen, a soccer-crazy teenage monk in a Himalayan monastery, to watch the 1998 World Cup live via satellite.

Given the director's identity and the film's setting, it is inevitable that some Buddhism is served. The world's most popular sport is stripped down and described as "two nations fighting for a ball." It has simple but clever dialogue that inspires meditative pause.

Yet notably in these times when Tibet remains the reigning celebrity cause-of-the-moment, PhOrpa keeps away from the temptation to romanticize Tibetans and their religion on film. The focus is kept on great human characters and good, old-fashioned storytelling.

The first full-length feature by Bhutan-born Khyentse Norbu, PhOrpa was done with a fresh eye and an uncluttered voice. The director also wrote the script, which he says is 95% based on his own experiences as a young monk. The 39-year-old was introduced to movie-making as an apprentice to director Bernardo Bertolucci on the set of 1993's Little Buddha.

Before financiers committed to the $300,000 budget (spent mostly on post-production in Australia), the director considered mortgaging some of his monastery's relics to fund this movie project. His congregation reveres him as the reincarnation of an important 19th-century Tibetan saint, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

A divinely inspired movie? Says co-producer Raymond Steiner: "'Mo,' which is the casting credit, is not a person. It's a Tibetan system of consulting the gods." Using prayer beads, the monks employed the method to decide key matters about the film like the choice of sound editor and the auspicious days to shoot. PhOrpa got spontaneous standing ovations after screenings at film festivals from Sydney to Cannes to Sundance — well-deserved recognition for a smartly rendered piece of cinema that has heart and soul.

— Alexandra A. Seno


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