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Golden Kingdom 

Wednesday, Jun 15 2016
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Brian Perkins' drama Golden Kingdom is one of a handful of films being released this week which explore the tensions between religious and secular lives. Four young boys, orphans or otherwise, are studying to be monks in a Buddhist monastery deep in the mountains of Myanmar. Their contact with the outside world is limited to the extent their sustenance-level meals are delivered by hand daily from a local farmer, while their lives are devoted to their rituals, with only occasional bits of time allotted to pillow-fights and other such childish pursuits. When their abbot (U Zaw Ti Ka) is called to travel to the state capital on foot through an encroaching war zone, he leaves Ko Yin Witazara (Shine Htet Zaw, the only member of the young cast who isn't an apprentice monk in real life) in charge as the boys fend for themselves. This proves more difficult when the farmer stops delivering their food, and they sense hungry ghosts in the woods, while Witazara begins to question why he's there, and where his mother is. Like the concurrent documentary Gurukulam, the picture is less about its story than creating a sense of place. It's aided by one of the most immersive soundscapes since The Revenant, and Golden Kingdom's world is only slightly less dangerous.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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