The Monk and the Gun 2023

Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji Journeys

Is “political freedom” worth the cost of familial or social discord? When Bhutan’s king abdicates in favour of democratic reform, a strange series of events unfolds, where the old and the new collide in wondrous fashion.

Aug 10

The Civic

Aug 14

Hollywood Avondale

Bhutan In Dzongkha and English with English subtitles
107 minutes Colour / DCP
NZ Classification TBC

Director, Screenplay


Jean-Christophe Simon, Hsu Feng, Stephanie Lai, Pawo Choyning Dorji


Jigme Tenzing


Hsiao-Yun Ku

Production Designer

Chungdra Gyeltshen


Tandin Wangchuk, Deki Lhamo, Pema Zangmo Sherpa, Tandin Sonam, Harry Einhorn


Telluride, Toronto, Vancouver, Rome 2023; Sydney 2024


When young monk Tashi’s lama (Buddhist master) asks him to procure a pair of guns in advance of their country’s first mock election – to “set it right”, whatever that means – he doesn’t ask questions, he simply strolls off into the unspoiled countryside towards neighbouring Ura village. One problem: Tashi has never seen a gun before! Sporting a premise that could equally lead to tragedy, tomfoolery, or transcendence, Pawo Choyning Dorji’s The Monk and the Gun keeps you guessing, with a half-smile at the corner of its cinematic mouth.

Balancing competing views on tradition and modernisation, city and village life, the film weaves a colourful tapestry of Bhutan’s relatively recent democratic transition, gilded all round with a subtle comedic edge. Forget understanding the electoral process, bemused villagers struggle to even fathom the need for the proposed changes in government, while a confused American arms dealer may get more (and less) than he bargains for. Dorji’s satire may be gentle rather than sharp, yet The Monk and the Gun effectively skewers “democracy” and “modernity” as Western cultural constructs; exploring how an indigenous approach to applying these concepts might be taken, carrying culture and values intact into the future. — Jacob Powell