Brian Perkins didn’t go to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, with the intention of making a film, but when he came across a small Buddhist monastery in the countryside, that changed. When I spoke with Perkins via Skype on June 17, 2016, it’s one of the topics we covered, along with his struggles with the government, and the advantages of being an outsider in telling a story of four boy monks coping on their own when their abbot is called away, and turmoil of several varieties intrudes on their spiritual practice. We started, though, with Perkins’ masterful use of sound in a film that is so visually compelling, as well as respecting the monastery used in filming, and the dream that started it all.
GOLDEN KINGDOM is his profoundly lyrical film about life, death, and spirituality. Set in a small rural Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, it’s the story of Ko Yin Witazara, a boy monk who is put in charge of his three fellow boy monks when the abbot is called away to the capital. As the days pass, and the outside world encroaches on the boys, what is real becomes subjective as we experience what transpires through Ko Yin Witazara’s eyes and understanding, an understanding that includes an illness that can turn a boy into a tiger, and a field of villagers mowed down by any unseen force. Perkins directed from his own script using non-professional actors who give performances that are both unstudied and devastatingly effective. This is Perkins’ debut film.