Paths of the Soul
PATHS OF THE SOULA documentary film by Zhang Yang
117 minutes, 2016. DVD NTSC
Tibetan with English subtitles. China
An astonishing journey of redemption, faith, and devotion. Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yang (Shower, Getting Home) blurs the border between documentary and fiction to follow a group of Tibetan villagers who leave their families and homes in the small village of Nyima to make a Buddhist "bowing pilgrimage"—laying their bodies flat on the ground after every few steps-along the 1,200 mile road to Lhasa, the holy capital of Tibet. Though united in their remarkable devotion, each of the travelers embarks on this near impossible journey for very personal reasons. One traveler needs to expunge bad family karma, a butcher wants to cleanse animal bloodstains from his soul, another nearing his life's end, hopes that the prostrations will break the chain of cause and effect determined by his life's actions.
Stunningly photographed over the course of an entire year, with non-professional actors and no script, Paths of the Soul is a mesmerizing study of faith that will inspire viewers to reflect on their own journey through life.
"There's never been a road movie quite like Paths of the Soul, an extraordinary chronicle of ordinary Tibetan citizens undertaking a 1,200-mile pilgrimage to Lhasa... a stirring study in faith and spirituality that will inspire many viewers to think about big and small questions of life." — Richard Kuipers, Variety
"A one of its kind journey for true believers… Nothing prepares the viewer for this sight. With Nyima driving a farm tractor that pulls a little wagon of provisions, the others take four or five steps down the paved highway before prostrating themselves on the ground. The ritual bowing includes an thick leather apron and blocks of wood to clap and protect the hands as the pilgrim stretches out on the road. This is repeated over and over, every few steps, for many months [until Zhang lets the stops out in a spectacular finale]." — Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter