Maybe you think that we are having non stop fun on this cycle trip of ours? Maybe you think everyday is an amazing adventure or something like that? The truth is that some amazing things have happened but do they happen everyday? No. The only thing that happens everyday is that we need to wash our underpants in a sink. We only have 3 pairs each. Things can get sweaty with all this cycling in this heat.
To help relieve the occasional boredom of washing dirty pants and knickers we sometimes watch films. The first film we watched while in Vietnam (the country where we started our trip) was “Good morning Vietnam”. I don’t think it was simply because we were in Vietnam but I guess it could have been. Since then we decided to watch at least one film in each country that was either a film from that country or a film very closely connected to that country. I am not going to review each of the films but will tell you the title of the movie, the country we watched it in, something about the film and maybe why we ended up watching it.
Good morning Vietnam (Vietnam)
Can’t really remember why we did this but it did start our film watching mission. The film itself seems a bit dated. Robin Williams is the typical high energy Robin Williams with touching moments.
Chang: A drama of the wilderness (Laos)
While staying in Champassak in Laos we ended up in a conversation with some French guy over lunch. It turns out that this French guy lived locally and every Tuesday and Thursday he would show the same silent movie at an outdoor cinema in this tiny town. Not only would he show the movie, but local musicians would play the soundtrack and do the sound effects live using local instruments. The movie, from 1927, was shot in an area of jungle which was part of Laos. It was a crazy movie about a local farmer battling with leopards, tigers and elephants. The french guy gave an introduction to the movie and told us that when the movie was shot there were so many of these animals in the area that in the scenes where the farmer would shoot the animals, they would well…. just shoot the animals. Plenty more where they came from they thought…. It was shocking to see but fascinating at the same time. While the movie was interesting it was the live music from the local musicians which made it a beautifully atmospheric experience. Fun fact: The director of this movie went on to make King Kong. They killed him too.
King Kong (Laos)
Turns out that Frouke has never seen any of the King Kong movies. We watched the original. It is deservedly considered a classic. Watch it if you haven’t seen it.
The Killing Fields (Cambodia)
Cambodia is a beautiful country but it has a recent history that’s hard to believe. Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge regime killed 25% of the population. Most people today who are old enough will likely know someone that was killed, know someone that did the killing or know both. Today they all somehow manage to live together. The Killing Fields is about the experience of two journalists during this time. We didn’t manage to visit Phnom Penh where the killing fields and the major museums about these atrocities are.
How Taew Tak 6 (Thailand)
I don’t know what the title means. I suspect it wouldn’t help me understand the film any better. While in Bangkok we went to a cinema, walked up to the ticket counter and asked for 2 tickets to the next Thai film that had English subtitles. This is what we watched. I could attempt to describe the plot to you but it would be like trying to describe the meaning of life. I just don’t know. A group of ladyboys who don’t seem to like each other very much, all end up in a house haunted by some Indians. I don’t know why they had to do this. They somehow all escape. In order for them to all escape one of them has to make a sacrifice. At the end of the movie the gallant ladyboy flies off to heaven on a large animated penis… I don’t know why. One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life but also one of the most memorable.
Burma VJ (Myanmar)
A documentary following the Saffron revolution against the military regime in 2007. Informative but ultimately depressing movie about life under the military regime in Myanmar. Makes you appreciate the freedom that we enjoy in countries like the UK and the Netherlands even more.
Bohemian Rhapsody (Myanmar)
This movies has no connection with Myanmar at all. We just wanted to watch something easy going and fun, so we chose this. We saw this while in Tamu which is the town on the border of Myanmar and India. If we had just waited until we had crossed the border into India we could have claimed the tenuous connection of Freddy Mercury’s parents being born in India. Oh well, just like Freddy we sometimes break the rules.
Paa (India, 1st visit)
One of the most magical cinema experiences of my life. The film itself wasn’t great, but sometimes it just doesn’t matter. An outdoor cinema in a tiny village perched on the side of a mountain. Read about it here:https://cycleforgood.wordpress.com/2019/04/15/did-that-really-happen/
“Best film from Nepal” is what I typed into google and this one came up a few times. It’s the only film from Nepal that I’ve seen so its hard for me to say whether it is the “best film from Nepal” or not but if it is then I’m not sure I’m going to watch any others from Nepal… Well… it wasn’t that bad. It was a slightly crazy movie about a group of colleagues who go on a work trip to a small village to investigate something (I can’t remember what) but they get lost and end up in some voodoo village and one by one they are killed. After we watched it I read that normally Nepali films tend to follow the kind of romantic Bollywood style formula so this ‘psychological thriller’ was something new and it showed people that Nepal can make films like this too. Frouke hated it.
While in Pokhara Nepal we came upon a small open air cinema set in the side of a small hill. Just after the sun would go down the movie would start and they would show something every night. When we first decided to watch Baraka we didn’t think there was any connection with Nepal, but we really wanted to watch it so we went anyway. Baraka is a non-narrative documentary consisting of a compilation of natural events, life, human activities and technological phenomena shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period. It’s spectacular to look at. If you have a large HD TV or this happens to be in a cinema near you, go and watch it. As a bonus the first scene included mountains in the Nepali Himalaya as well as shots from other locations in Nepal.
The Golden child (Nepal)
This film isn’t as funny as I remembered it but it’s entertaining enough and Eddie Murphy does visit Kathmandu and Pokhara. After being slightly disappointed with the movie it did make me feel like watching Coming to America but I guess we’d have to cycle in New York or Zamunda to do that. Apparently they are making a sequel.
“K-K-K-Kiran hah ha ha haaah”, that’s what the owner of our homestay in Lucknow would say every time he would see me. He would even send whatsapp messages to Frouke asking “how is K-K-K-Kiran?”, mimicking the stammer of Bollywood MEGASTAR Shah Rukh Khan in the film Darr. The homestay owner also enjoyed telling me I had a girls name (I know this already), the Kiran in the film was a girl. Even though he would make the same jokes every time we saw him, we enjoyed his company and hospitality, so we thought it was only right that we actually watch this film. It was a strange film because even though Shah Rukh Khan is the bad guy (he’s stalking K-K-K-Kiran), the actual hero and boyfriend of K-K-K-Kiran is extremely annoying and the actor was terrible. You kind of want SRK to get the girl. *Spoiler* He doesn’t.
The best exotic marigold hotel (India)
As we were cycling towards Jaipur we decided to take a small detour to the Chand Baori step well. Construction of this well started in the 8th century but apparently was not finished until the 18th century. That’s a lot of tea breaks. We arrived here around lunch time and it was about 50 degrees Celsius, no exaggeration. Way too hot to be outside, never mind cycle so we decided to go to a fancy hotel near the step well to see if we could get a drink and cool down in an AC room for a few hours. Turns out the owner was a super nice guy who used to work in the film industry. Not only did he let us chill out in his hotel for a few hours but he also fed and watered us for free because he liked what we were doing on this trip. In his movie days he worked with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale on The Dark Knight rises as well as working on The best exotic marigold hotel. We watched the movie a few days later in Jaipur which was pretty cool as much of the movie was set in Jaipur as well as there being a scene in the Chand Baori step well.
De de pyaar de (India)
While looking for things to do in Jaipur we read that they have one of the worlds most beautiful cinemas. The outside itself is pretty cool so we wondered what the inside was like. They would not let us in without buying a ticket so we bought the cheapest seats for the one and only movie showing. The foyer of the cinema and the screening hall itself are beautiful. This cinema and Tuschinski cinema in Amsterdam are two cinemas which are worth going to even to watch a terrible film. “De de pyaar de” was a terrible film. In some ways it was a standard bollywood romance however the portrayal of women in this film seems closer to 1919 than 2019. Visiting the Raj Mandir cinema was like stepping back in time, a magical journey to the golden age of cinema for only €1, unfortunately it’s where the film belongs too.
If a direct antidote to “De de pyaar de” was needed this was it. A hard hitting gritty drama about two female police officers in New Delhi. Set just after the horrific rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi, it’s a film that holds a mirror to Indian society and in particular the adversity women in India have to deal with. The film was suggested to us by Sanjay, the owner of a homestay in Kalimpong. We were supposed to stay at his place for one night but due to a combination of illness, his mum being a great cook and his place being a wonderful peaceful place we ended up staying for a week. Sanjay is a screenwriter so we thought it would be good to get a film recommendation from him, and he gave us Soni. Apparently it is billed as “The best film on Netflix you’ve never heard of”. It’s good.
Sanjay told us that in a previous life he lived in LA and would write hindi subtitles for Hollywood movies. His claim to fame from this time was writing the subtitles for The Shining! Stanley Kubrick’s daughter was in charge of this process, he said she was a pain in the ass…
India’s favourite anarchist once marched 384km in 24 days from Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad to Dandi. Known as the Dandi march or the Salt march the aim was to protest an unjust tax on the production of salt. Gandhi would march to Dandi where he would make salt in direct disobedience of British law. It sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the British salt laws by millions of Indians. The route of the Dandi march passes through Surat in Gujarat where i still have family so we decided to cycle along the same path taken by Gandhi on route to my cousin’s house. Several ashrams have been set up along the route at places where Gandhi actually stayed. Each place told a short story of what happened when he was there. The people that worked at each place were extremely hospitable and made sure we were fully fed and watered and had a comfortable nights sleep. They, as well as the historical significance of the route made our journey to the house of my family extremely special. Gandhi’s non violent, non cooperation approach had and continues to inspire millions, we saw it fitting that the last film we would watch in India was the film of his life.
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