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TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS (movie directed by Khyentse Norbu)
About the film About Khyentse Norbu About the actors and actresses
About the film

Two men, two women, two journeys are make their way along the majestic mountain roads. Getting a lift for all of them becomes a mission and walking to Thimphu seems to be their destiny. Along the way they meet a series of colourful local characters but it is when Dondup meets a local beauty, Sonam, that his world starts to alter and his footsteps begin to falter. Will the monk's playful teasing change Dondup's view of his 'primitive' homeland, or will it be Sonam's beguiling smile?

...Meanwhile, despite his efforts to return home, Tashi cannot find his way back and is seduced by Deki. Time becomes meaningless as their passion overheats. The rhythmic sound of Deki's loom as she weaves an intricate dress fabric reflects the heartbeat of the two lovers...

Back on the road the travellers are not only sharing meals together but also their lives. The apple seller silently observes the hapless Dondup become smitten with Sonam. Is he blinded by his hopes and schemes, is it lust or love, and what of his 'great American dream'?

The mischievous monk stirs the pot even more as he continues his tale.
...Tashi's dream of endless love darkens when Deki reveals she is pregnant. She coerces him into making a poisonous potion to get rid of her husband. As he goes through his death throes Tashi's remorse overwhelms him and he hastily departs. Deki follows him but drowns in the ensuing riverside chase.

Tashi, weeping inconsolably, stares at the ripples of his tears in the water as he reflects on what has just happened. He awakens from his drugged state - it was all a dream...
Further down the road Thimphu is near.

Dondup wavers should he leave or should he stay? The monk with the permanent smile knows. With his deadline looming, a ride finally appears but can only take two of the travellers. Dondup chooses to depart with the monk, leaving Sonam behind. Two men, one chasing love ends up in a dream. The other, chasing a dream, leaves love behind.


About Khyentse Norbu
Known as His Eminence Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and a member of one of Bhutan's most noble families. He is the son of contemporary Buddhist master Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, and grandson of both tantric yogi Lama Sonam Zangpo and H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche. He was recognised at the age of seven, as the third incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, the non-sectarian saint, scholar and principal lama of Dzongsar Monastery in Tibet.

Dzongsar Monastery was renowned as a centre of non-sectarian scholarship and contemplation, producing many of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist masters, scholars and practitioners of the last century and a half. As the significantly to the continuity and preservation of many precious teachings of Tibet.

Khyentse Norbu was trained by some of the greatest living masters of Tibetan Buddhism. He continued his nonsectarian heritage by founding retreat centers, schools of philosophy and charitable foundations around the world. When not making films, he teaches Buddhist philosophy throughout Asia, North and South America, Europe and Australia.

Khyentse Norbu's primary residence is in Paro, Bhutan, but his work schedule requires constant travel. He spends several months each year in strict meditation retreat.

TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS is Khyentse Norbu's follow-up to his internationally successful 1999 feature THE CUP. After making its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, THE CUP won critical acclaim and festival awards around the world, as well as being distributed in over 40 countries. The New York Times named Khyentse Norbu "a born filmmaker" and London's Evening Standard called him "one of the hottest new directorial talents around."


About the actors and actresses
Dondup is played by Tshewang Dendup, a producer and reporter for the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS). It seems everyone in Bhutan knows Tshewang. He stands out in a crowd. He certainly stood out the day Khyentse Norbu spotted him amidst 25,000 people while conducting a ceremony in 2001.

Tshewang was there not as a worshipper but as part of the BBS crew covering the event. "When he beckoned, I thought he was going to reprimand me because there were nine cameras and it was a spiritual event," he recalled. Instead, Khyentse Norbu said, "Would you like to come for an audition?" Tshewang readily agreed and he became the first person to be cast in the film.

The character of Dondup represents the modernisation of Bhutan and Tshewang truly embodies transition. He has a son living in Toronto, posters of Che Guevera and John Lennon hanging in his living room, and wears a denim gho (traditional Bhutanese dress), the only one in existence, which is featured in the film. Yet he also has a deep understanding of his culture and a great respect for his country.

Tshewang was born in the Year of the Iron Dog (1970). His parents are from the eastern Bhutanese town of Radhi but Tshewang was raised in Samtse on the Indian border. Growing up he was exceptional and not just because he preferred to run naked whenever possible. He graduated top of his class and was sent to Sherubtse college, Bhutan's only college that awards degrees, graduating in 1993 to take up a post at BBS. He took leave during the 1999 and 2000 school years to accept a scholarship to UC Berkeley, in California, where he received a Master's Degree in Broadcast Journalism with an emphasis on documentary production. He is currently writing a novel.

Sonam Lhamo was born in the Year of the Earth Dragon (1988) in Gelephu, Bhutan. She is captain of her class at Lungten Zampa Middle Secondary School in Thimphu.

Sonam, the character, represents the unadulterated beauty of Bhutan. "I feel very fortunate and lucky to represent a country like ours," she says. "Some people don't even know Bhutan exists or they look down on it. But this film will certainly show that even Bhutan is something special." Sonam Lhamo is special, herself. She is courteous but not cold, delicate but not fragile, attractive but not overtly, lovely but not aware of her loveliness. And she's smart. One of the brightest students in her class. Khyentse Norbu recalls meeting her for the first time. "She was fresh like a lemon. She was even wearing green."

Acting, meeting new people, and joining impromptu dance parties at the camp, were all part of the fun for the young actress but working with Khyentse Norbu was the highlight. "Because religion plays a very important role in our country and its once in a blue moon that you even get to see lamas and Rinpoches," she says. "I was very fortunate to be acting in his film."

Sonam Lhamo hopes to help Bhutanese women and families by becoming a gynaecologist.

Of all the roles, Tashi was the most demanding to fill. Casting Director Karma Yangki simply couldn't find someone enigmatic, good looking, and sharp enough. A few days before the foreign crew was due in Bhutan she spotted BBS producer Lhakpa Dorji at a pay phone in the rain. She chased him up the main street of Thimphu calling out "Tashi."

Lhakpa didn't know much about Khyentse Norbu. "I was told that more than 100 people had auditioned and been rejected for the same role," he said. "But I did it my way and luckily I got it.

He spent much of his three weeks on set drenched to the bone, running through thickets, or eating the same meal take after take. But he never complained.

Lhakpa was born in the Year of the Fire Dragon (1976) He studied in Motithang High School then received his Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Madras in Chennai, India.

Deki Yangzom plays the young wife of Agay. Early in 2002, Deki Yangzom accepted a last-minute invitation to a dinner party held by her cousin Choing Tshomo. She came straight from her day job in the HR department of the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan to find herself in the middle of an impromptu casting call. "There were so many beautiful girls there I didn't think I had a chance," she says. "I was so shocked when they called me back."

Deki didn't know that Louise Rodd, a tarot card reader from England, had spotted Deki from the crowd and whispered to Khyentse Rinpoche, "she's the one." Rinpoche agreed, Deki's husband and family gave her their blessings and she accepted the role. "I was extremely happy and overwhelmed," she says. "I had never acted before nor even been to a filming set, I really didn't know what to expect - camera, lights, makeup and so on. And I knew we would be camping."

Deki probably had the shiniest gum boots in camp. Her fastidiousness is Tashi...played by Lhakpa Dorji, Deki...played by Deki Yangzom her mother from Mongar, both Sharshogkpa speaking easterners.

But amongst friends, Deki often speaks English. "Getting down the dialogue in Dzongkha was tough," she admitted. "The character that I had in the film had nothing really to do with my reality. But suppression and inhibition do exist in such a conservative society." Acting was exciting but, she says, "the most memorable moment was when I received the 'lung' (blessing) of the seven line prayer from Rinpoche at Chelela Camp. Deki was born in Thimphu in the Year of the Fire Dragon (1976). She studied in Khalingpong and later at Lady Keane College in Shillong, India. She is married and has a two year old daughter.

The Monk played by Sonam Kinga
Despite looking very much at ease in robes, Sonam Kinga is really not a monk but a researcher at the Centre for Bhutan Studies ( He is the author and editor of numerous books and reports on Bhutan including "Gross National Happiness" and "Impact of Reforms on Bhutanese Social Organisation." He studied in Canada and Japan and speaks eight languages. His forthcoming Rinzang Lhaden is a translation of Sophocles' play Antigone from English to Dzongkha.

Originally contacted by Prayer Flag Pictures in March 2002 to translate Khyentse Norbu's English script into Dzongkha, he was tricked into doing a screen test and soon after was offered the role. Two weeks before filming was to begin, Khyentse Norbu invited him to increase his involvement by staying with the crew for the entire shoot, serving as dialogue coach. "I naturally enjoyed acting the monk," he said. "To be what you are actually not is exciting. Acting demands thinking, integrating and finally expressing the character of a person you impersonate. It was most challenging, making it most enjoyable." As a founding member of the National Film Review Board, Sonam Kinga has seen nearly every Bhutanese film. Although he enjoys Sharshogkpa speaking easterners.

Source: Text Prayer Flag Pictures 2003


Links & Publication

Source: Zeitgeist Films
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Khyentse Norbu: Travellers and Magicians
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