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January 11, 2000
The Cup Benefit Shows Set In NY, LA
Arthur J Pais
After charming critics at the Cannes Film Festival, and wooing New York and Los Angeles reviewers during the mandatory one-week Oscar-qualifying run, The Cup (Phorpa) opens in New York and Los Angeles on January 28.
FineLine Features will also show the film at the Sundance Film Festival this month, and hopes to unveil it in over 50 cities across America.
The movie details a 14-year-old monk's obsession with watching the World Cup soccer finals on television. His personality and enthusiasm encourage others to break the rules and sneak out to the village shop to catch a glimpse of the crucial semi-finals. But out of the rebellion emerge a number of questions about identity and discipline.
"Buddhism is their philosophy," the ad for the movie proclaims. "Soccer is their religion."
Writer and director Khyenste Norbu, a real life lama who picked up the ropes of film-making when he was a technical adviser to film-maker Bernardo Bertolucci on Little Buddha uses humor to raise questions about religion, spirituality and cross cultural influence. The movie was filmed at Choking monastery, a Tibetan refugee settlement in Bhutan, from where most of the actors were drawn.
Before The Cup makes it to the public, at least two benefit shows have been announced. In Los Angeles, the January 20 benefit premier will help the Tibet Fund; in New York Asia Society will hold a benefit event on January 27.
Many Hollywood celebrities including Richard Gere, Goldie Hawn, Shirley MacLaine, Martin Scorsese, Harrison Ford and Uma Thurman are expected to attend the benefit events.
Buddhist-themed films have had little luck at the American box-office. Martin Scorsese's Kundan folded up with about $ 5 million, Little Buddha took a poverty vow, earning less than $ 3 million, and the Keanu Reeves-starring Seven Years in Tibet grossed about $ 35 million. But there are better predictions for The Cup.
The movie was made for $ 300,000. It has already nearly recouped its investment having been sold in over 20 countries. FineLine Features, which has taken full-page advertisement in trade publications such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter to alert Oscar-voters about the film.
FineLine is reportedly spending about $ 50,000 to promote the film in the first week.
"If the movie grosses about $ 100,000 in America, it will be considered a success," says film writer Suprotim Bose. "It did not cost $ 25 million like Kundan." The movie could also become a big hit on video.
Bose believes that the film will find audiences across America because of the positive buzz and the reviews it has received in major publications. There is something exotic about a film coming from nowhere, he adds, and which yet connects with audiences who may not be interested in Buddhism.
"One of the freshest and most charming films around," the London Daily Telegraph wrote.
"A delightful film," proclaimed The New York Times.
And a critic in Los Angeles Times wrote: "Rich in detail, yet irreverent in tone, the film takes moviegoers on an eye-opening journey inside a Buddhist monastery."
The Cup clearly has a lot going for it.
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