“If even one person changes because of my movie, it will have been worth it” Brian Perkins

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By Kinjal Sethia

“On a basic level, travelling reveals to me the common thread of humanity,” says Brian Perkins, “recently I was in Ukraine, where they are still having a war, and even though things may look different, there is a powerful experience of the human condition. When I travelled to Belur, Varanasi and Rishikesh,  I experienced Hindu traditions. Not just as yoga retreats, but by getting more involved and then taking that back into my western lifestyle.”
Perkins’ ‘Golden Kingdom’ depicts the life of four novice Buddhist monks in a remote part of North-East Burma, and the magical events they experience after their master departs, stranding them in the middle of a forest. The film has deep spiritual resonance, reflecting Perkins’ exploration of Buddhism.
Perkins says travel  helped his spiritual development. Three of the four children featured in ‘Golden Kingdom’ are actually novice monks. “They had never been on camera before,” he says. “They had only seen a couple of Kung-Fu movies. They didn’t even know how they were supposed to act, which is why I wanted to work with them. I wanted more natural performances, like they were in real life. It was a bit difficult, as they are children. We also had to take care of their strict schedules and precepts, as they are monks.”
Making a film in Myanmar, which is undergoing a radical political change, was stressful, but also very exciting, says Perkins. “The Burmese film industry makes a lot of films, but in a way it’s really non-existent. No one has been exposed to the outside world. I somehow wanted to capture this cinematically, and I wanted to show audiences what it is there like right now. Also, the country is changing very quickly. There is something new every time I go there.”
It is this turbulence that Perkins wants to capture, at Myanmar’s most important historical moment. “I wanted to explore the tensions within the country. Humanity has been fighting for so long, and Buddhism may be the proper response to that. I don’t have a solution. The situation is complicated, as there are some radicals in the Sangha who are being used by political agents. I did not take official permission before I started filming. If I had, they would have controlled the making of the film, and censored the script. I decided I would rather not make a film, with so much control. Now I am submitting my film to the government’s censorship office, and I hope they approve it.”
‘Golden Kingdom’ was the opening film at the Berlin Film Festival. “Two of the actors actually came to Berlin from Burma. They had never seen snow before. It was great to take these children there, to see them walk the Red Carpet and signing autographs.”
Speaking on how art-house cinema is distributed in the United States, Perkins said, “It is really the Golden Age for cinema in the context of mediums that are used for distributing films. Now Netflix and Amazon are coming out as production houses, and they can step in at a certain mid-level. So if you want your film to be watched by a lot of people, that is possible now. The future of this mode of distribution will depend on the kind of films you are making, and the actors in the film.”
“Golden Kingdom is immersive enough to people who are open to it,” he says, “the spirit of the film can teach them something. I want as many people to watch the film, but my goal when I started to make it, was that even if one person somehow changes because of it, then that is worth the whole process.”

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