When we think about Spain, tapas and sangria pop up into our minds and when we go to France, there’s a huge chance you’ll eat some baguettes. Belgium is undoubtedly connected with beer, fries and waffles and Italy, pizza and pasta go hand in hand. But what do you know about Mongolia and its culture? Probably not much.
Well, that’s about to change with director Benjamin Johns (“Traveller”, “Tribe”) his “The Medicine Buddha”. It tells the unique story of the Mongolian Buddhist leader, head professor and chief doctor Khamba Lama Natsagdorj, who’s giving us an exclusive look into his life, work and the Mongolian culture and shares his visions about family, friends, life and medicine.
Meet Khamba Lama Natsagdorj, also called Khamba Lama. He’s living in Mongolia and is being praised for his incredible work as a Buddhist priest, professor and doctor by many of his followers and patients.
He’s being described as “modest”, “grateful” and “humble” and straight from the start, it’s clear that Khamba Lama is exactly that.
In the first part of this documentary, he’s showing us how he celebrates the Lunar New Year and it involves a lot of praying, eating the traditional food, drinking the local beverages and just being together with friends and family.
No matter what day it is, it’s all done with a big smile and a very generous heart. After the “Bituun”, the last day of the New Year celebrations, it’s time to step into the new year hoping to have good health and a lot of prosper.
It’s no wonder that the second part is about Khamba Lama’s work as the chief doctor and head professor. As a doctor, he gives a unique insight into how medical treatments work in Mongolia and it’s totally different than in the Western culture. It’s more about herbal medicine instead of the fabricated chemical pills and love and prayer can do a miracle once in a while.
For Khamba Lama it’s not enough to help and treat people but he also wants to teach the younger generation about the Mongolian medical system and how the treatments work.
During the communism, the information about that was lost and an extreme amount of monks were killed. Khamba Lama sees it as his job to bring the information back to the people.
We already saw a glimpse of the Mongolian culture and Khamba Lama’s work but he also takes us on a pilgrimage back to his birthplace. The trip involves a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and the freezing temperatures and snow make it exceedingly hard to move around. Will Khamba Lama be able to visit the most important place or will his prayers won’t be enough this time?
During our double interview with both Khamba Lama and director Benjamin Johns, the latest told us that people can take away different things from this movie and that’s certainly true.
He mentioned that “The Medicine Buddha” could spark a (wider) interest in medicine and that can definitely be the case. In the documentary is Khamba Lama talking extremely passionate about medicine and medical treatments and giving that knowledge to other people and the effect he has on his followers and patients can only be applauded.
The human connections and the immensely personal experiences give an extremely personal touch to the documentary. One that connects all the people, all over the world.
The other thing that people can take away from this documentary is the Mongolian culture. We might not know a lot about it before watching “The Medicine Buddha” but afterwards you’ll know that it’s a enormously rich culture in which family, friends, food, love, and prayers are key.
While talking to Khamba Lama himself, he mentioned that the crew of “The Medicine Buddha” were very good to work with and that the people were hard working and making sure that the film would be a successful one.
Watching the documentary certainly made that clear. The scenes are beautifully shot and include wonderful and vibrant colours as well as the stunning scenery of Mongolia.
There’s also no doubt the director and his crew were welcomed with open arms as Khamba Lama, his friends and family open up to them with a lot of ease, love and friendship (or at least it seems like that).
The lack of VFX and special effects are what make this documentary even more pure and honest. Last but not least, there’s also the voice over of Sir Ben Kingsley (“Night Hunter”, “The Jungle Book”) who brings this documentary together as a whole.
“The Medicine Buddha” won the Mongolian Academy Award in 2018 for best Documentary and last week it had its UK premiere at the Regent Street Cinema.
Fingers crossed that the feature documentary will get a UK-wide or better a worldwide release because that would be what it deserves. Learning a lot about a different culture and getting to known its amazing people while watching a beautifully made documentary? What’s not to like about “The Medicine Buddha”.