Phörpa (The Cup)

Inspired by true events, the story follows two young Tibetan boys, Palden and Nylma, escaping Tibet and arriving at a Tibetan monastery-in-exile nestled in the picturesque foothills of the Himalayas. The monastery attempts to hook up a satellite dish so that the locals can watch the World Cup soccer matches.
Year Released
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)


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Nepal/Tibet Tour Terry Owens

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies
Posted On: 09/18/2018

The film begins slowly but maybe that is its charm. The refugee struggle is depicted in a Buddhist monastery in India. Yet, many universal themes are covered in the film as well, such as tradition vs. modernity, nature vs. technology, human resilience in the face of adversity. Although I had to watch it twice because of the slow entry, I really enjoyed the treatment of sports in such an unusual setting as well as the backdrop and more subtle Buddhist struggle. The Tibetans are presented as "noble savage" types always virtuous and struggling so there is a bias. Using it in the classroom would work if the perspectives of the film were presented along with it. A discussion on the dual narratives of the exiles and the Chinese government, maybe even a discussion on the usage of the word "fight" by the monk to mean "game", the symbolism of the cups, the lifestyle of the boys, all might be a really interesting way to present the film and talk about different ways of looking at things.
One thing really stuck out in terms of teaching Buddhism to teenagers through this film. Presenting the boys struggle to get a TV and then make sure the other boy was reimbursed for the watch might be a good way to illustrate the struggles of Buddhism such as desire, the "I", misery and happiness.
Overall, it was a sweet depiction of universal themes.

Phörpa (The Cup) by Khyentse Norbu

Field of Interest/Specialty: Economics/Government
Posted On: 06/04/2018

The Cup by Khyentse Norbu tells the story of monks and their quest to watch the 1998 World Cup. Against the backdrop of a core group of monks scheming to watch the televised games, two refugees from Tibet arrive. The new arrivals become intertwined in the young monk Orgyen’s quest to watch his favorite soccer team’s progress to the World Cup Finals.
The young monks showed that they were really just like any other young men wanting to watch the World Cup. Their persistence in coming up with creative solutions to watch the games strikes a universal chord for devout sports fans. Orgyen and his cohort Lodo hide pillows under their blankets to sneak into the local village to watch the semi-finals. All is well with their ongoing plan to watch the final in the village until Orgyen becomes overly enthusiastic with his cheering and is banned from the communal watching.
The video is shot on location at the Chokling Monastery part of a Tibetan refugee settlement in Bir, India. The cast are members of the monastery and the story itself is based on a true incident. These are all items that help students to see some of the challenges of living in a monastery following traditional Buddhist practices at the same time experiencing the outside world of the late twentieth century.
At the same time that the young monks are anticipating the World Cup, the abbot of the monastery is expecting two young men escaping Tibet, a young man and his nephew. The two have been sent to the monastery to receive a Buddhist education and avoid the persecution of the Chinese. The abbot’s perpetually packed bags ready to return to Tibet also help emphasize the tension between China and Tibet.
Geko, the disciplinarian of the monastery, works to keep the young monks in line as well as carrying out the day-to-day activities of the community. A particularly favorite moment is when he needs to rouse a habitual sleeper at the daily prayers. The movie shows that this particular monk had a penchant for sleep over all else, including soccer.
The video includes a great overview of the filmmaker, Khyentse Norbu, the incarnate lama, known by his ecclesiastical title, H. E. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyestse Rinpoche. There is also an overview of the key characters and their roles in the monastery.
This video would be great in World Cultures, World Geography, or perhaps even a contemporary World History class. The story, with its soccer connection, would strike a universal message for young people in both middle school and high school. The story also incorporates some of the tension between Tibet and China. The two young refugees help reflect how families are willing to pay to have their children leave Tibet in order to practice their faith in safety. The abbot’s longing to return to Tibet also helps to open a discussion on the relationship between China and Tibet.
The video also helps to give a window into the daily activities of the monks. Reading the notes on the video also was helpful in seeing the significance of the Tibetan Buddhist divination system of Mo. The traditions of the Tibetan culture with rituals for deciding all types of issues, including filming, help to remind me that this trip offers the opportunity to readjust priorities.
I would definitely recommend this movie to other teachers. Although it's now 20 years old, I think that it still helps students see the universal interests and behavior that young people share. Its age also offers the opportunity for teachers to discuss how relations between China and Tibet have evolved during the past 20 years.