Sunday, May 20, 2007

Macho Meets the Mystical in a Himalayan River Trek

From: New York Times

Television Review 'Adventure: Bhutan'

ADVENTURE BHUTAN
Documentary
Directed by Scott Welsh; written and produced by Alex Williamson. Produced for Discovery Channel by Atlantic Productions. For Discovery Channel, Peter Lovering, executive producer. For Atlantic Productions, Anthony Geffen, executive producer.

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan was ranked the eighth-happiest country on earth in a study last year by a British scientist at the University of Leicester in England. It is probably no coincidence that the Bhutanese do not go in for white-water kayaking. Leave it to the West to import this perilous activity and make a documentary about it.

“Adventure: Bhutan,” which will be shown on the Discovery Channel tomorrow night, follows 24 intrepid types on a 10-day river trek from the Himalayas, south to the Indian border. Nobody has done this before, and there seems no reason to do it now, other than to make this documentary; the network assembled the team for that purpose.

The leader is Gerry Moffatt, a Scot who can say things like, “We’re all in the same boat together” and not sound corny — that’s how handsome he is. His impressive crew includes Greg Mallory, who is paralyzed from the waist down but paddles a mean kayak all the same, and Land Heflin, whose name alone destines him for macho adventure.

The members of the team start out among the gorgeous hillside temples of northern Bhutan, where they meet the locals and get a blessing that requires drinking alcohol from a human skull. They do more sightseeing than Matt Lauer, the globe-trotting “Today” show co-host, did on his recent Bhutan stop, but we learn less from them. These buff adventurers are here for one reason: the river.

Much of the scenery they lurch through, the narrator tells us, “has never before been seen by Western eyes.” Still, once those rapids start rolling, we could be in Colorado.

The usual trials follow. Will they make it to camp before dark? Will they get out of the gorge alive? Will the guy who’s having pure alcohol poured into his bone-deep leg wound stop moaning?

And will we driven Westerners ever learn the secrets of the East? Not in this documentary, that’s for sure. Everybody talks about the “mysticism” of the Buddhist culture that surrounds them, but, as Mr. Moffatt says, “I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

It’s simple. Just get out of the boat and walk away.

10 comments:

Javier A. said...

Adventure Bhutan featured stereotypical self-hating Westerners oohing and aahing, mostly through sloganistic clich├ęd misperceptions and exaggerations about their surroundings and its population, their way through unexplored regions of one of the most regressed countries in the world. It would have been wonderful to see an expedition of scientists/explorers that would have taken the opportunity to do something other than remind the viewer with alarming frequency that “no one” or “no Westener” has been here before and this expedition is fraught with “danger.” Nonetheless, this program is a must see as it affords a rare glimpse into a country that favors televised wrestling over any other type of programming thanks to absolute paternalistic monarchial isolationist policies.

cine said...

thanks for your comments...i have yet to see it believe what you wrote here...

but, i didn't quite understand the last part of your comment where you say that bhutan favours televised wrestling over other programmes...can you elaborate on that?

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