Opening July 30, 2020
Directed by: Jesco Puluj
Writing credits: Jesco Puluj
Principal actors: Documentary: Phra Julien, Ani Gyan Tara, Tserendagva Shagdarsuren, Master Xianzeng
Jesco Puluj invites audiences to join his quest, while pushing clothes into a travel bag. With camera in hand, the Munich native intends to satisfy his curiosity about Buddha and the Asian religion-cum-philosophy of Buddhism in his debut feature-length documentary. First stop: the northern province of Mae Hong Song-thon in Thailand to visit a Canadian transplant living there. The monk, Phra Julien, talks about living in seclusion yet in harmony with nature, neighbors and a vegan cat, and being at peace with himself and the world.
Imagine the contrasts then visiting VOWZ bar in Tokyo, Japan. Its patrons chant, pray, sip humorously named cocktails or bop along to Gugan Taguchi & the Vowz Band having fun. Obviously the proprietors, a group of monks, are succeeding in making Buddhism more “schmackhaft” (palatable, acceptable). In Roundwood, Ireland, Victor Langheld realized his dream with a public nature park and statues that represent stages of personal development. “If you want to understand Buddhism use common sense and look at science today … solutions ancient Buddha found are redundant.” Taking Victor’s words to heart, Jesco heads for the Far East. History and karma merge as Jesco makes his way from Nepal to Central Mongolia to China to Africa checking out cloisters, monasteries, ruins, and newly built temples. Like Laston Benson Chiyundo in South Africa, Jesco investigates the monk lifestyle in China. At Beijing's Longquan Monastery he meets the chubby little robot monk Xian’er that the monks use to educate and raise awareness among captivated audiences.
Editor Jessica Ehlebracht’s firm grip on writer-director-cameraman Puluj’s well-rounded material is perceptive, clever and complimented by the Vowz Band’s harmonized music. Having met many monks, nuns and disciples along our journey, The Odd Monk stands out. They live simple lives according to their self-adapted Buddha principles that are perhaps best summed up by the maxim “treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.” Jesco is asked late in his pilgrimage, “So you’re not a Buddhist?” His reply, “What is a real Buddhist?” indicates he has gained some wisdom as well. 83 minutes, German subtitles ()