Urban Cinefile
"I actually had my mouth full of chocolate....a slight peanuty taste, though"  -Nicholas Hope on the taste of the cockroach he ate in bad Boy Bubby
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday September 16, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Inspired by real events, The Cup is set in a Tibetan monastery-in-exile in India, which receives two young Tibetan refugee boys (two of the thousands sent by their families out of Tibet to avoid the crushing oppression of China) to be trained and ordained. Before long, the earnest young monks are thrown into the fever of the looming world soccer cup. Young monk Orgyen (Jamyang Lodro) is the mischievous organsising force that leads the soccer-mad monks on a surreptitious midnight pilgrimage to the nearest tv set. Once caught, the monks are in danger of expulsion as the Final nears, unless Orgyen can cook up a scheme - and get the abbot's approval.

"Cinemas aren't full of Tibetan films - and more's the pity. This is only the second one ever made, and the first to gain such wide recognition and distribution. The freshness and complexity of The Cup combine to be both entertaining and relevant. First, the entertainment: new characters and the exotic locale (a real, working Buddhist monastery) combine to give even jaded cinema audiences a thrill. And the gently sardonic humour is an unexpected surprise. These young (and some old) monks turn out to be just as fallible and unholy as we ourselves, pursuing a soccer final with the fervour of a Melbourne footy fan. This recognisable sin of the flesh (some might call it) endears them to us, and instead of being flippant about it, Norbu tells the story in a 'what you see is what it is' style, gathering chunks of insightful episodes along the way. And this is where the relevance comes in, both on a human level (the Tibetan monks as real people just like you and me) and through the understated political element of the story touching on China's shadow over Tibet. This makes The Cup one of the most subtle political films ever made, and one of the most entertaining cultural excursions Anglo-Saxon movie audiences can take. (There is even a strong Australian connection - the filmmaker has Australian experience, used some Australian crew, and post-produced the film in Sydney.) The Cup will reward your time and effort to see it."
Andrew L. Urban

"Poignant and fascinating, The Cup is a remarkable glimpse of Tibetan society, where ancient traditions collide with the chaos of western-world progress. The mountains are high, the landscape is remote, yet in its heart lies a community exploding with colour, humour and surprises. We explore a world where rituals, prayers, culture and attitudes are structured and disciplined. Many teenagers today would benefit by seeing this film: they may better understand the value of respect and acceptance of responsibility, instead of thinking ‘it’s cool’ to shirk it. The contrast of modern-day graffiti, rebellious, irreverent episodes within this conservative world is extraordinary, the sardonic humour startling. Orgyen (Jamyang Lodro's performance is wonderful) may be a young monk studying Buddhism, but his shrine is a wall of football pictures, his commitment absolute. His impish cheekiness, gung-ho rebellion and big heart will stay with you. Just as Fever Pitch pitches its passion at emotions and not the sport, The Cup similarly themes on football; but you don’t have to even like football to be mesmerised by this film. Khyentse Norbu’s poignant film debut not only reflects inner peace and sanctuary, but the chaos of life from a different view point. How ludicrous is this world in which we live, when our leisure time is spent watching two civilised nations fighting over a ball? Rich in humanity and zest for living, The Cup is more than a heartfelt insight into a foreign world; its different perspective makes it an eye-opener on its own."
Louise Keller

"If you're not a soccer fan there are two important things to know before seeing The Cup. The first is that soccer's world governing body, F.I.F.A. (the Federation of International Football Associations), has more members than the United Nations. Secondly, to understand the passion the sport inspires, it's worth noting the comment of legendary Liverpool F.C. manager Bill Shankly who once said that "football is not just a matter of life and death, it's much more important than that". If you're nodding now you're home already. Noteable as the first feature film directed by a lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Bhutanese filmmaker Khyentse Norbu), The Cup is a delight which makes up in heart and soul for what it lacks in sophistication. That it's based on fact and performed by a winning cast of non-professionals drawn from monastic ranks makes it even more enjoyable. Without politics being at the forefront The Cup reminds us of the ongoing horrors in Tibet since the Chinese invasion and casts a cautiously optimistic eye to the future. Maybe a time will come when Tibetans won't be arrested for possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama. Norbu's main objective is to entertain and he achieves this splendidly. The irreverent humour dotting the tale of these young Ronaldos in robes cheerfully debunk notions we might have of solemnity and quietude being a monks full-time occupation. Without striving for big laughs all the time and sometimes slackening the pace to meditate on details we might find rather mundane, Norbu and his multinational crew have created a genuine charmer - in anyone's language. My only real quibble is with the sometimes inaccurate chronology in the clips featuring actual World Cup action. That will hardly matter to anyone but if, like me, you're on Shankly's team when it comes to matters of footballing importance it's a minor disturbance in an otherwise gentle little gem."
Richard Kuipers

Email this article

Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


See Andrew L. Urban's interview with
and the filmmakers


CAST: Jamyang Lodro, Neten Chokling, Orgyen Tobygal, Lamra Chonjor, Godu Lama, Kunsang Nyima, Pema Tshundup

DIRECTOR: Khyentse Norbu

PRODUCERS: Malcolm Watson, Raymond Steiner

SCRIPT: Khyentse Norbu


EDITOR: John Scott

MUSIC: Douglas Mills


RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

Tibetan with English subtitles




VIDEO RELEASE: November 14, 2001

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019