Amongst White Clouds

Sometimes documentary film can be so dazzlingly simple that you forget just how complex the process of film making must be. Amongst White Clouds is such a film. A meditative and quite absorbing look at hermit monks and nuns living on a remote mountain top in China, this film had me thinking throughout it "I could do something like this."
Of course, I almost certainly couldn't, but I actually think it is a testimony to the film-makers art that he can create such an intimate and unpretentious piece. The camera lingers on the hermits' faces and their simple dwellings, for the most part allowing the hermits to speak and tell their stories. Inspired in part by the wonderful book by Bill Porter (Road to Heaven - an absolute must-read), this is a fascinating insight into a way of life that is ancient and, I fear, endangered.
And what a charming bunch they are. A cheerful, chubby-faced old nun takes us up to a mountain spring while she siphons her drinking water, and a half-mad old monk admonishes a junior member of his community to speak up so that the camera crew can hear him better.
This is a film free from didacticism or any clumsy attempt to create some sort of artificial narrative. It is a simple journey amongst hermits, going from one to another as any pilgrim would, sitting at their feet and absorbing heir wisdom, at times profound and at times mundane.
I absolutely loved it, and found that watching this film was itself a meditative process, and exercise in contemplation. Wonderful stuff.


I was skeptical, but it was engrossing.

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