The dazzling new film from Bhutanese lama and filmmaker Khyentse Norbu (The Cup, Travellers and Magicians) chronicles a sacred jungle ritual whose masked, anonymous participants seek after complete self-knowledge — or descend into thievery, violation, and murder.
Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait
A man enters a clearing, dons a mask, plays a flute, and waits. He is soon joined by other masked people carrying machetes, spears, and bows. They take him to a place deep in the jungle where a ceremony is about to commence, and an elder explains the rules. The ritual takes place once every 12 years. It begins with the full moon, and no one may leave until the new moon rises. Identities beneath the masks must not be revealed. "You are here to prepare for the gap between death and birth," the elder explains. "You are here to find out who you really are."
Self-discovery lies at the heart of this mesmerizing new film from Khyentse Norbu (The Cup, Travellers and Magicians). The Bhutanese lama and filmmaker, recognized by Tibetan Buddhists as the third incarnation of the founder of Khyentse lineage, imbues his films with a rare spiritual wisdom — though not at the expense of the traditional movie-going pleasures of spectacle, character, and suspense. Inspired by the concept of the bardo, a state through which departed souls pass before entering their next incarnation, Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait is a colourful plunge into a world where ancient rites can summon our noblest and our basest instincts.
Anonymity is intoxicating, the elder warns the participants, and can provoke reckless action. Indeed, between dazzling displays of ritual dance we will witness thievery, violation, and even murder. Can there be such a thing as justice in this self-contained world beholden to the ceremonial rules? As it draws nearer to its climax, Hema Hema reveals insights into human nature and how it manifests, not just in the wild but also in the modern world of endless distraction.