SIKKIM (director/writer: Satyajit Ray; cinematographer: Soumendu Roy; editor: Dulal Dutta; music: Satyajit Ray; cast: Satyajit Ray (Narrator); Runtime: 55; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: The Chogyal of Sikkim Palden Thondup Namgyal; Angel-PAL; 1971-India-in English)
“The engrossing and well-made no frills documentary has Ray narrate in English.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The educational travel guide documentary was commissioned by the king of Sikkim at a time in 1971 when the sovereignty of Sikkim was threatened by both China and India. The film was banned by the government of India when Sikkim merged with India in 1975. The ban wasn’t lifted until September 2010. It was never released to theaters and was not seen except by the king’s (Chogyal) family. The film was supposedly lost, except in 2003 a print kept by the British Film Institute was located. India’s greatest director, Satyajit Ray(“Two Daughter”/”Agantuk”/”The Chess Players”), was commissioned to make the film by the Chogyal and his American wife Hope Cooke as an homage to Sikkim and to promote its sovereignty–the reason it was controversial in the eyes of India.
The engrossing and well-made no frills documentary has Ray narrate in English. It tells us the population is merely 200,000 for this small country that stretches only for 70 miles and it shows the majestic Himalaya mountains that engulf it, a few remote mountain villages, and a few monasteries (Buddhism is the official religion),. We also get to see the happy school children and learn about the tribal makeup of its people, who relocated from many different outlying countries. After a visit to a busy marketplace on a Sunday, we witness a costume ritualized Buddhist ceremony (with dancers, lamas and a police band).
Ray described the film in the following way: “there are poetic shots in the rain and there’s great optimism as seen in the happy children. The whole thing builds up into a paean of praise for the place.”
REVIEWED ON 3/13/2014 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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