Charlie is in Bhutan to photograph the village weavers for a Los Angeles newspaper spread. It is a first, as the natives have never opened up their culture to the West. And, of special interest... Emrhys Cooper is the very first Western actor to star in a Bhutanese movie. When Charlie and his guide Penjor. played by Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk* speak to one another, of course, they speak in English. When the natives are together speaking and singing in their native language Dzongkha, subtitles in English appear onscreen. Audience, therefore, are fully aware of what is happening at all times. In spite of this, there is mystery afoot, and that partially emanates from the legend of the cloth. Weaving symbolizes wisdom, the cleansing of ignorance. Patterns on cloth mean creativity. The Kushuthara garment that is worn by the one who is loved brings her (him) eternal peace, and the entire world sparkles with light. It is a beautiful way to make a living, as the village women sit and weave together, reciting poetry and telling enlightening stories that may change lives for the better, or however fate has designed it.
At the core lies Buddhism in all of its glory. A person who is truly in love loves the same person in thousands of past lives. There is one essential legendary story in the plot that the weavers relate of two villagers, young Meto (Karma Chedon) and her older lover Phuntsho (Kencho Wangdi) who loved each other passionately but whose love was never consecrated in marriage. Phuntsho was called away to foreign lands to market textiles and never returned, causing Meto much suffering. She committed suicide, throwing herself from a high mountain. Charlie has unexplained dreams of Meto and Phuntsho, as does Chokimo. She mysteriously takes on the character traits of Meto, and Charlie those of Phuntsho. Poor Bampala suffers too, as he witnesses Charlie falling in love with Chokimo. Chokimo owes much to Bampala, so when Charlie asks her to leave Bhutan with him, she refuses, in spite of her love for him. Their love must end, just as did that of Phuntsho and Meto. The Karmic philosophy teaches that true love means sacrificing your happiness for the happiness of the one you love. It is all for a higher purpose.
The film is exceedingly moving as we experience Charlie's and Chokimo's inner most emotions up close. The palpable beauty of the scenery and that of the traditional music of the weavers add greatly to the love story and to our appreciation of the culture. When the native men gather together with the women in the evening, Charlie is asked to dance and share his Western skill and heritage, Cooper opens a vibrant side to Charlie's personality, attempting to create a more harmonious fusion of the two divergent musical cultures.
Cooper does a wonderful job portraying Charlie's innocence and vulnerability throughout. His is a sincere and earnest portrayal, as he wins our sympathy and trust. Wangmo is not only lovely to look at, but brings much luminosity and wisdom to Chokimo, who understands her true place in the world. We can only hope that their separate paths will eventually bring them the fulfillment they deserve. The rest of the cast are equally worthy of praise with Karma Chedon a standout as the wounded Meto.
In short, the entire cast simply shine under Deki's ultra sensitive direction. Kushuthara is a little gem of a film that gently opens up our hearts as well as our minds to the acceptance of the unknown.
Don't miss it soon in select theatres near you on the 27th of January, 2917. It will also be available on all VOD platforms.
*Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk is best known for costarring alongside Brad Pitt as the Dalai Lama in Seven Years in Tibet