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Youthful devotion: Documentary looks into social life of Nepalese kids in Buddhist monastery

A scene from the short film “Yarne.” (Courtesy of Andrew Krakower)

Living in Nepal for eight years, Andrew Krakower was influenced by his surroundings.

He worked for a Buddhist monastery, where he was around child monks.

He saw firsthand how devoted those children were. He also noticed that they were just that – children.

“It always bothered me a little bit, because in film, we see these highly romanticized versions of monks,” he says. “When tourists come around during Yarne, they have these false notions. The children are devoted, but they still want to be kids. They can’t leave the monastery grounds. They want to run around and buy their sweets.”

With this realization, Krakower decided to make the short film “Yarne.”

“Yarne” tells the story of 11-year-olds Sonam and Tashi. The two earn money by doing prayers, but it is only enough to share one small Coke. Sonam is lucky to even get a sip before Tashi, the monastery bully, drinks the rest of the bottle.

Yarne is an annual six-week period in which Buddhist monks remain within the monastery grounds for focused study and practice, yet for child monks, it’s more like house arrest.

Tired of wasting his money, Sonam decides to save every rupee he earns during Yarne to buy a soccer ball, but first he will have to stand up to Tashi.

The film will screen at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema as part of the Santa Fe Film Festival.

Director Andrew Krakower

Krakower says filming took just under two weeks.

Most of the crew members were monks.

The first version of the film was 30 minutes, and the script was written to be 10 minutes.

“Getting to 19 minutes was really hard,” he says. “In Santa Fe, they will be watching the full version. The Santa Fe screening will be the final time the 19-minute version will be watched. I’ve edited it again to 15 minutes for future festivals.”

Krakower says “Yarne” provides a rare glimpse at the social fabric that exists in the dormitory life rather than the ceremonial shrine room of a monastery.

“I attempted to capture the child monks as nascent boys caught between an ancient tradition and the modern world influences of moneymaking, Coca-Cola and smartphones,” he says.

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