Documentary Idea + “The Tiger and the Monk” Reflection

For my documentary, I hope to film the ins-and-outs of a local enterprise named the Textile Arts Center. I will have one of its founders speak about the history and mission of the organization. Then, I hope to include a demonstration of one type of craft project that is done at this center. B-roll for this film will include shots of the studio, the types of textiles and fabrics used, of other students (with consent), and of people completing various projects with textiles.

“The Tiger and the Monk” is an interesting and mildly-entertaining documentary about a Buddhist temple in Thailand that is not only an active religious site, but also houses over a dozen tigers and is a refuge for various animals from nearby forests. The temple, known as Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, received its first tiger cub in 1999 and since then, has continued to care for the animals. This was a rather intriguing film, but was not up-to-par in many regards.

Unfortunately, most of the techniques used in this film were not effective and could be improved upon. Firstly, the entire film was narrated by a very monotonous, uninterested voice. To make matters worse, the filmmaker did not change the voice when reciting a translated quote from one of the monks. So, to me, the film was rather boring in terms of the narration.  Secondly, the overall ideas that the filmmaker included became very jumbled at times. I feel as though this film tried to tackle too many issues in one; those topics included: poaching, Buddhism, the story of the Tiger Temple, the history of the tigers and other animals, the routines of both the monks and the tigers, etc. It became confusing at times as to what truly the director wished to achieve with this film. Lastly, speaking positively about the monks and their way of life, the director and writer decided to include information on how the temple is trying to raise money to make more of an attraction out of the tigers. The monks, as told by the narrator, was to build an island where tourists can visit the tigers and to do so, they need to garner much press attention to make financial gains. While this may be true, it felt off-putting when juxtaposed with the serene, simple, and calm lifestyle of the monks that the film also tried to portray.

There were a few elements of the film that were effective, however. I believe that the camera techniques used were excellent. My favorite shot was when the youngest monk was praying, and in the background, two infantile tigers were fighting. The tigers were out-of-focus, which added a certain depth to the scene and truly captivated me. There, also, were many instances of beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing B-roll footage. The B-roll of the mountains, the forest, the animals in their natural environment, and of the monks completing daily tasks enhanced the film.

Overall, “The Tiger and the Monk” was effective in relaying the story of Tiger Temple, but could have been improved in certain areas.