‘The Next Guardian’ exceeds expectations with beautiful themes

‘The Next Guardian’ exceeds expectations with beautiful themes

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It’s remarkable how one building can represent so much. In the True/False documentary The Next Guardian, directors Dorottya Zurbó and Arun Bhattarai represent the struggle between Westernization and tradition with a single monastery. Strikingly telling and surprisingly funny, The Next Guardian explores the disconnect between an older generation and its children.

In Bhutan, Gyembo and Tashi, a brother and sister duo, try to balance their hopes and desires with their family’s expectations. Gyembo wants to complete his modern education, but his father asks him to leave it all behind to become a monk. The family’s monastery is under threat of removal by the government, and Gyembo’s father believes him becoming a monk is the only way to save it. At the same time, Tashi has the heart of a boy and a passion for soccer, but her parents insist she act ladylike. As the siblings adapt to a quickly changing world, their parents cling to sacred traditions.

Rather than focusing on Bhutan’s youngest generation in the broader scope, Zurbó and Bhattarai were clever in narrowing their lense to this specific family. The characters were easy to relate to, reminding me of conversations I’ve had with older family members. Between eye rolls and exasperated sighs, their family’s story was one that could be applied to many generations and cultures, not just Bhutanese families.

Although portraying a serious topic, humor was intermixed perfectly to make the film both thoughtful and funny. With every joke, the characters became more relatable, making the 74-minute movie finish in the blink of an eye.

What I loved even more than the bits of metaphor and humor sprinkled throughout were the progressive themes. While the Bhutanese family did not use this specific term, transgender youth is an ever-important topic coming into debate in the 21st century. While I’ve heard and read many stories about the LGBTQ community in America, I rarely get the chance to hear about what it’s like to be LGBTQ in another non-Western country. Tashi’s struggle being a boy in a girl’s body is portrayed accurately and respectfully. What I found more interesting than her take on the situation was her parents’, who described it as her past life being stuck in her current body. This angle was a fascinating look into how other countries and older generations are adapting to modern-day concepts.

A beautiful film in characters, story and sound, The Next Guardian did an excellent job telling the story of a modernizing child’s disconnect with traditional parents. Even though the story took place in Bhutan, its themes are relatable across cultures and to all individuals.

I believe this is a film that should be seen as a family: parents and children sitting side by side. This way, it is easier to see how different lifestyles and environments do not mean one generation’s interests should be placed above another’s. After all, one generation is not always completely correct while another is entirely in the wrong. As The Next Guardian points out, usually life works out best when one practices a combination of the old and the new.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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