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      Paths of the Soul

      Released May 13, 2016 1h 55m Documentary TRAILER for Paths of the Soul: Trailer 1 List Paths of the Soul: Trailer 1 Paths of the Soul: Trailer 1 1:37 View more videos
      94% Tomatometer 16 Reviews 96% Audience Score 100+ Ratings Eleven Tibetans prostrate themselves every few steps during a 1,200-mile pilgrimage that lasts for seven months. Read More Read Less

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      Paths of the Soul

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      Critics Reviews

      View All (16) Critics Reviews
      Bilge Ebiri Spirituality & Health Zhang observes with patience, humanity, and beauty: His camera stays fixed on these villagers and their prostrations, but he also makes sure to take in the breathtaking beauty of the landscape through which they're traveling. Mar 24, 2020 Full Review Jake Wilson The Age (Australia) This is, in short, a blandly soothing film with little substance of any sort. Rated: 2/5 Aug 22, 2018 Full Review Benjamin Mercer AV Club Their devotion is staggering. And so is the film. Dec 1, 2016 Full Review Ard Vijn ScreenAnarchy Paths of the Soul is a fantastic and refreshingly benevolent look at a different culture. Jan 10, 2020 Full Review David 'Mad Dog' Bradley Adelaide Review [Paths of the Soul] works beautifully as a study of faith, compassion and spirituality. Rated: 8/10 Oct 20, 2017 Full Review Adrian Mack Georgia Straight No less extraordinary than the action depicted in director Zhang Yang's festival hit is the fact that it's so watchable. Sep 14, 2016 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

      View All (6) audience reviews
      Audience Member A docu-drama that follows a group of about ten Tibetians on a pilgrimage to Lasa, Tibet. They calculate to use approximately seven months on their roughly 2.000 kilometers trip by foot. And oh, they throw themselves to the ground every tenth step or so, doing a "kowtow" - kneeling until their heads touch the ground. This is a long journey and a childbirth, road crashes and several extreme nature happenings are being witnessed. Snow, rain, heat and even more juicy stuff are included. There is no music, little dialogue and mostly wide shots with few faces - we keep distance. I'm never bored - it's amazing. Their passion and courage, the positivity and the few people they meet makes it a very plesant ride the full two hours. The fantastic shots of beautiful nature sure helps too. Crisp sounds of "clickety-clacks" from their wooden hand protection mittens are a treat in this otherwise silent film. There are almost just nature herself, people noises and the clicks here. Lovely and calming. There is not much information about this film so far, so I'm really not sure if it's a documentary. I did found this sentence at screendaily, though: "..director Zhang Yang uses non-professional actors and a non-scripted narrative to create a fictionalised account of true event". A different road trip indeed. Inspiring, weird and very, very fascinating. 8.5 out of 10 kowtows. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/17/23 Full Review Audience Member Unique, humbling, and excellent documentary of a one-year,1200 mile pilgrimage to Lhasa, Tibet (now subsumed into map of China). Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/18/23 Full Review Audience Member People do strange things to feel "religious." Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member In 1994, Rodger Kamenetz popularised the term "Jubu", or "Jewish Buddhist", with his best-selling book, The Jew in the Lotus. The book, which detailed a series of conversations between a number of rabbis and the Dalai Lama, confirmed what a number of Jews either already knew or suspected: many Buddhist practices dovetail quite nicely for those who are looking to express their spirituality in ways that their grandparents back in the shtetls of Eastern Europe could never have imagined possible. It could be with that in mind that I approached the film, PATHS OF THE SOUL, with a curious eye. I wanted to see the connection for myself. PATHS OF THE SOUL is the work of mainland Chinese director Zhang Yang, whose previous films have included SHOWER and GETTING HOME. Zhang had travelled to Tibet a number of times over the years and was struck by the locals who make the thousand-plus kilometer trek from their remote villages to central Lhasa along National Highway 318. Walking such a long distance must be hard enough but these pilgrims are doing it in both blizzard and blistering heat, at elevations above 3500 meters, and prostrating themselves (kowtowing) every few steps along the way. The film follows an extended family of 11 souls from the village of Mangkang (nestled in the southeast corner of China's so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, near the Yunnan and Sichuan provincial borders), who decide to make the journey for a number of reasons. Yang, the oldest member of the group, wants to go because his brother had died before ever having the chance to go himself. Yang, himself, has never even travelled beyond Mangkang. His nephew, Nyima, decides to accompany him. Rigzin wants to go to honour the memory of the two men who had recently died while building his house. Jiangcuo, the village's butcher, also wants to go to hopefully cleanse himself of his dependence on alcohol. Tsring, who is heavily pregnant, wants to go to have her baby en route and bring the infant good karma. Gyatso, an 11-year-old girl, doesn't have much say in whether or not she goes. Her relatives don't want to have the burden of looking after her while her parents are on the trek. Nevertheless, she takes on her new responsibility like a mature adult. The pilgrimage is something that every Tibetan dreams of doing at some point in their lives. Gyatso is just doing a bit earlier than the rest of her friends and cousins. Kowtowing is serious business. Dressed in a heavy, rawhide apron over their already bulky clothes (the apron runs from chest to shins), the worshippers dive headlong onto the pavement every seven or eight steps. Blocks of hardwood are strapped to their hands to protect them but even they get abraded down after a few hundred kilometers and have to be replaced. The same goes for their shoes, which can't offer much protection let alone arch support when they only cost 30 renminbi (less than US$5) each. But the pilgrims endure, covering about 10 kilometers a day. Leading the pack are the oldest men who chant prayers while acting as traffic cones for oncoming cars and trucks. Behind them is a farm tractor that pulls a trailer filled with their tents, blankets, food and water. No one complains and there are no egos to contend with. They are solidly united and steadfast in their belief and their mission. It's easy to think that PATHS OF THE SOUL is a documentary, but it really falls under the relatively new genre known as "docufiction". Yes, these are real people walking 1200 kilometers but, as the director explained in a post-screening Q&A, some scenes were reshot as many as four times in order to get the effect just right. The final act, too, he informed the audience, was staged. But don't let that stop you from watching the film or enjoying it. There's something that's mesmerizing in watching this group interact with their faith, each other, and the people they meet along the way. Perhaps it's the simplicity of their lives and how they take pleasure in every little thing. I've got to say that while Judaism has some practices that even many Jews find onerous (keeping kosher, for example), it's nothing compared to what Tibetan Buddhists do to show their faith and devotion. But I do see the connection between the two. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 01/28/23 Full Review Audience Member A profoundly moving and beautiful film that explores the beauty of human nature and spirituality. A tremendous film that in my opinion is both my favourite film of the year so far as well as the most human film of the decade. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member In short: Unusual road trip (very literally). A heartwarming pilgrimage tour. We only remember this from stories told by our (grand)parents Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival (IFFR) 2016. The description of the movie was not very welcoming, so I looked for a seat next to the door so that I could sneak out when loosing interest. But I was fully mistaken in my prejudice, and sat out the almost-two-hours running time without a problem. The pilgrimage tour is a daunting undertaking indeed, to leave home, family, relatives, and the village where you lived all your life, for a journey that spans nearly a full year and covers 1,200 miles on foot. We see the changes in seasons and landscapes every now and then, implicitly demonstrating the distance and time span. The extraordinary way the pilgrims are moving forward, by throwing themselves to the ground every 7 or 8 steps, may be something that we find peculiar, or an excessive form of devotion at best. But my Roman Catholic background helps me a bit in understanding this, in spite of never having participated in any of such rituals myself. I know of several relatives having undertaken a pilgrimage to e.g. Lourdes, Kevelaer or Santiago de Compostela, to name just a few well known destinations in Europe. The underlying No-Pain-No-Gain philosophy is fundamental to the Roman Catholic religion. It can be serving as penitence for past sins, or praying to recover from an illness, or asking for anything else wanted very badly. Undertaking the journey on foot was known to earn much more "bonus points" than using a modern transport vehicle. Though no Catholics are involved in this movie, the basic principles look similar. We even see them going back and re-doing part of the trip on foot, after the tractor that carried their luggage broke, and they got a lift to a town nearby for repair. Apart from the obvious religious reasons for such a journey, as mentioned by one of the pilgrims as his reason to go along, it offers an acceptable way to see other parts of the world, broadening their horizon after having lived within the village they never left. The latter is something that I recognize from past reasoning of family members after announcing a pilgrimage to e.g. Lourdes. Going on a holiday abroad may be common nowadays and no exception when done yearly, yet it was very unusual at the time, at least for working class people. The heartwarming aspect of the journey grew on us gradually. The pilgrims are welcomed by people they see underway, usually to be invited to join their meal or to use their house for the night. Conversely, they invite others to join them in their tent when the weather is deemed too cold, or they assist people working on the land when those demonstrate hospitality and ask them in to stay the night. The implicit reciprocity and willingness to help other people, even completely unknowns, leaves a warm impression on us viewers, at least it worked on me. Nowadays this is not a matter of course anymore, as growing mistrust between people stands in the way of such social behavior. I left the theater with warm feelings and gave the highest possible marks for the audience award. Many agreed with me: I learned afterwards that this movie got a very high place (4th, out of 178) with average score 4.568 (out of 5). Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/27/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis Eleven Tibetans prostrate themselves every few steps during a 1,200-mile pilgrimage that lasts for seven months.
      Director
      Zhang Yang
      Producer
      Li Li, Zhao Zhang, Fei Gao, Rongcai Yu
      Screenwriter
      Zhang Yang
      Distributor
      Icarus Films
      Genre
      Documentary
      Original Language
      Tibetan
      Release Date (Theaters)
      May 13, 2016, Limited
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Nov 23, 2016
      Box Office (Gross USA)
      $28.2K
      Runtime
      1h 55m
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