Chris Knight: The story is interesting if a little uneven
Chris Knight June 15, 2018
The religious concept of reincarnation has some sticky real-world consequences in Becoming Who I Was, a documentary that follows a young monk-in-training in his quest to find his home.
Filmmakers Moon Chang-Yong and Jeon Jin spent several years following Angdu Padma, who was born in the northern Indian region of Ladakh, but felt that he had come from Kham, across the border in Tibet.
The local monastery declared Angdu to be a Rinpoche, or reincarnated lama, and accepted him as a pupil. Unfortunately, when no one from the Kham monastery came to claim him, he was thrown out.
It fell to Angdu’s elderly uncle to raise the boy; eventually, he decided to take him to Tibet himself. But he hadn’t considered the Chinese border guards, who take a dim view of reincarnation and Buddhism.
The story is interesting if a little uneven. Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t want to abandon years of early footage, but the journey that makes up the second half of the film is really the more interesting part of the tale. And the editing feels a little too slick at times; unless the camera was rolling constantly over the years, some of these scenes have been re-enacted.
But leaving these quibbles aside, Becoming Who I Was functions as a moving account of religious and migratory freedom butting up against global politics. Whether you believe Angdu’s story or not, the would-be monk has a ready laugh and infectious good humour. All he wants is to take them home.