The Golden Triangle of Northern Thailand is an area with a long drugs history and has many isolated and impoverished homes. Dutch director Mike Verkerk gained unprecedented access to this area in order to film an intimate and dramatic story over the course of a year.
This documentary tale of compassion features the Abbot Khru Bah Neua Chai Kositto, a travelling Thai monk, who has devoted himself to the orphaned and abandoned boys in the region. He offers them a new life by providing a secure home environment and giving them an opportunity to learn a valuable set of life skills.
By establishing a spiritual anchor for the boys, he teaches them to be self-dependent and to show compassion to others. A former boxer, the monk knows the importance of Thai boxing as an art and as a means of strengthening the mind and body. The emphasis is placed on what can be done rather than what cannot.
Khru Bah's home base is the Golden Horse Monastery, so named because he also has rescued more than 120 horses from the slaughterhouses. The novices learn animal husbandry, as well as the close link that exists between humans and animals.
Also living at the monastery is a nun, Khun Ead, who manages the day-to-day activities and is like a mother to the boys.
Though Khru Bah's methods are strict they are delivered with heart-felt kindness. He says that if a horse is stubborn he has to hit it, and if the child is stubborn he has to hit him. He knows that if the children don't get a proper upbringing they'll never be able to tell right from wrong.
The monk is a local legend. He and the novices go out to the villages each day on horseback to collect alms, usually food. The villagers give in order to earn merit, a Buddhist tradition.
Some of the boys stay at the monastery for a few weeks, some for a few years. Some have gone on to be professional boxers, some, as translators for the border patrol, some to jobs in the city, and a few to become monks.
Buddha's Lost Children has won half a dozen festival prizes, including grand jury prize for best documentary in Los Angeles.
- Buddha's Lost Children, Mark Verkerk, The Netherlands, 2006, 97 minutes, DVD, Nelson Film Society, Suter Theatre, tomorrow 6pm. Members only. Join at door.
- © Fairfax NZ News