To quote a certain William Shakespeare, “some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em”. If you’re a Buddhist, there’s another option. Followers believe that great religious teachers are reincarnated. They refer to those who are the new incarnation of these leaders as Rinpoche. This is the subject of Moon Chang-Yong and Jeon Jin’s new documentary Becoming Who I Was.
A young boy, Padma Angdu, is said to be a new Rinpoche. There’s a problem though. In a previous life, he was a great teacher at a monastery in Kham, Tibet. Unfortunately for Padma, he’s been reincarnated in Ladakh, Northern India. He’s taken in hand by an elderly monk, Urgyan, who’s determined to dedicate his life to helping the young man realise his promise. However, a Rinpoche is like an orphan without a monastery. Determined to fulfil his mission in life, the pair set off on the long arduous journey across country, hitching lifts where they can, but all the odds seem stacked against them.
Becoming Who I Was is a wonderful documentary about the bond between a child and his teacher. Depending on your perspective, Padma has a huge burden on his shoulders. However, he’s still just a kid, with the same troubles, anxieties and issues as anyone else his age; although it has to be said he’s definitely a scaredy-cat! The whole process is a journey, both literally and figuratively. Both figures are playing their part in Padma fulfilling his destiny. Becoming Who I Was is a fascinating peek into another world.
Becoming Who I Was screens at London Film Festival on 15 October.