Melbourne International Film Festival kicked off this week and will run over the next few weeks in venues across the CBD. My first MIFF film yesterday afternoon was Paths Of The Soul at the Kino Cinemas. This film by Zhang Yang follows a group of Tibetans villagers on a pilgrimage to the city of Lhasa and the Jokhang Temple. This months long, 1,200 km plus journey is done by kowtowing, where the villagers clap wooden planks strapped to their hands three times and then dive out onto the road, touch their forehead to the ground and then get up to repeat the process. The group encounter all sorts of weather and terrain, often having to be careful of the trucks driving along beside them on the road. After setting up camp each night they pray and also discuss the reasons for taking this pilgrimage. The film is a beautiful display of devotion and shows the range of human experiences from birth to death that occur throughout the journey.
The Eagle Huntress at ACMI, a documentary film by Otto Bell about a 13-year-old Mongolian girl, Aisholpan, who aspires to become an eagle hunter just like previous generations of Kazakh men in her family. While she has the support of her father and grandfather, many other elder eagle hunters do not agree with this break in tradition. After Aisholpan captures and trains her eagle, she participates in the regional Golden Eagle Festival competition against 70 other hunters. This movie is quite uplifting and a great coming of age story about female empowerment and the breaking down of gender boundaries.