Tandin Wangchuk (right) and Tandin Sonam (left) star in “The Monk and the Gun” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions).

(“The Monk and the Gun” trailer courtesy of RoadsideFlix)

Foreign language films do not often get much attention in RegalMag.com.

Reading subtitles while watching a film just seems like double the work.

But despite language differences, the human condition is the same no matter what country someone hails from.

Therefore, people from all over the world from the United States to Ukraine will relate to “The Monk and the Gun” and the fragility of democracy in countries new and old.

While many Americans, understandably, love democracy and the freedom that it gives, those not accustomed to such freedom can sometimes feel apprehension when given power that they have never experienced before.

In the kingdom of Bhutan, the Bhutanese are comfortable in their way of life.

Yes, they have a supreme ruler and no elections.

However, everyone gets along because the controversial decisions that are required to run a government rest in the hands of the elite of society like the king.

Nevertheless, freedom obviously has its advantages.

Before the king of Bhutan decided to abdicate the throne, the Bhutanese never had the Internet or even televisions.

When they finally get the freedom to have a television, many gather in the homes and businesses of those who can afford a television, and watch old MTV shows or James Bond movies.

Although some in “The Monk and the Gun,” are reluctant to adopt to the changes of democratic society, others look at it as an opportunity to rid the country of its past feudal system and embrace industrial change and growth.

But with industrial revolution comes a loss of traditions and way of life, which many believe most be maintained.

In “The Monk and the Gun,” the country of Bhutan will soon hold its first elections.

Many do not even know what an election is.

Therefore, government officials must educate the citizens on elections, teaching them how to vote and even holding a mock election.

Unfortunately, getting residents to even register to vote is difficult because some do not even know their actual birthdays.

One man only knows that the king was 15-years-old when he was born.

Other folks do not even care at all about the democratic process because they have seen how political partisanship has led to controversy and chaos in other countries.

So, in their minds, why disrupt the calm that they have known for years for controversy?

Regardless of what happens on election day, one person that just hopes for the best is the Lama (Kelsang Choejey).

Although he is meditating for two years, he keeps abreast of the happenings of the day by listening to the radio.

He knows the modern changes the country will enact will alter the course of the country forever.

Will the changes be good or bad?

He does not know.

But he knows he needs to do something to make things right in Bhutan.

Therefore, he instructs Tashi (Tandin Wangchuk), one of his monks, to find him two guns that he must have for a ritual he wants to conduct before election day on the Full Moon day.

In fact, the Lama wants to invite an election official that is teaching everyone how to register and vote to come because he has something special just for her.

What in the world would a monk need with two guns?

And why would he insist that a government official attend his two-gun salute ceremony in the first place?

To make matters more volatile, an American tourist, with the help of a local tour guide (Tandin Sonam), is in the country trying to purchase an old gun for his collection.

In fact, Ronald Colman (Harry Einhorn) is willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the gun.

But in a land where very few people, outside of the police and military have guns, it can become a tug-of-war when the American and the Buddhist monk both want the same gun.

Sparks could fly as the pair tussles over the gun.

And even more sparks could fly if the gun ends up in the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, sparks continue to fly throughout the world as countries try desperately to hold on to their democracies.

Many who live in a democracy probably will say that a democracy is the best form of government because of the individual freedom that it promises.

But even with that freedom comes division because people with opposing views often bump heads with people that they care about over politics and religion.

And for some reason political beefs often lead to separation of friends and families.

Unfortunately, over the past decade the political climate has led to much controversy and ended friendships as Americans take sides based on tribes or political parties.

If a person resides on the right side of the aisle, they sometimes believe that people on the left are the bad guys.

And if a person resides on the left side of the political aisle, they often feel the same way as their peers on the right.

Some family members refuse to talk to each other because of political differences and those divisions show their ugly head in Bhutan too thanks to “The Monk and the Gun.”

The acting in “The Monk and the Gun” is relatable.

Even the monks like Tashi are relatable and likable, thanks to his preference for James Bond movies and coke.

Honestly, the only unlikable character in “The Monk and the Gun” is the American gun collector Ronald who comes across as an untrustworthy hustler.

“The Monk and the Gun” is appropriately paced, not too fast and too fast, letting the story and the characters breathe a bit.

And maybe that’s all democracies need to survive, a chance to breathe and get away from all the bickering and fighting by putting the country first over any one individual or one side of the political aisle.







Todd A. Smith
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