The Monk and the Gun Review: A Delightful Political Satire

The Monk and the Gun Review

Welcome to our review of “The Monk and the Gun,” a satirical film directed by Bhutanese filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji. In this article, we will delve into the plot, characters, and themes of this intriguing movie. Set in the year 2006, as Bhutan transitions towards democracy, the film takes a humorous and thought-provoking look at the impact of mock elections on the lives of its diverse cast of characters.

A Lens into Bhutan’s Democracy Journey

“The Monk and the Gun” serves as a follow-up to Dorji’s Oscar-nominated debut film, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom.” With stunning cinematography by Jigme Tenzing, this ensemble comedy explores the intersection of the country’s upcoming mock elections with the lives of a titular monk, a rural family, an election official, and a city dweller.

Through minor and major encounters, the film navigates the complex web of relationships and events that arise during this transitional period.

A Quirky Request and a Mysterious Journey

The story kicks off when the elderly lama of the rural village of Ura, portrayed by Kelsang Choejey, requests his attendant Tashi (played by Tandin Wangchuck) to bring him two guns before the full moon, coinciding with the day of the elections. This enigmatic request sets Tashi on a journey to find the guns, leading to unexpected encounters and revelations.

Mock Elections and Polarizing Politics

As Tashi embarks on his quest, election official Tshering (Pema Zangmo Sherpa) arrives in the village to oversee the mock elections. The film cleverly exposes the ways in which political parties can divide families and communities. The fictional parties, represented by the colors blue, red, and yellow, symbolize different ideologies and priorities.

The villagers are taught how to vote and encouraged to participate in rallies, but tensions arise as they are pitted against each other, questioning the impact of politics on their close-knit society.

A Tender Tale of Family and Change

Dorji skillfully weaves a subplot around Tshomo (Deki Lhamo), a local woman whose family is torn apart by the upcoming elections. Her husband Choephel (Choeying Jatsho) and her mother support opposing parties, straining their relationship. Amidst this tension, their daughter Yuphel (Yuphel Lhendup Selden) longs for a simple eraser for school but is met with her father’s preoccupation with the election. The film explores the sacrifices and conflicts that arise when personal ambitions clash with familial harmony.

Media Influence and Cultural Transition

“The Monk and the Gun” also delves into the role of media, particularly television, in shaping Bhutan’s future. In a country that only recently lifted its ban on television and the internet, the influence of international outlets like CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera is felt.

The film highlights how officials like Tshering are more concerned about international perception than the desires of the Bhutanese people. It cleverly critiques the impact of media on traditional values and the challenges of balancing cultural preservation with modernization.

Guns, American Culture, and Identity

A recurring motif in the film is the presence of guns, specifically the AK-47, symbolizing America’s unchecked gun culture. Tashi’s search for guns leads him to an antique rifle with a history that connects Bhutan to the American Civil War. This relic becomes sought after by a seedy American collector named Mr. Ron (Harry Einhorn) and his urban guide Benji (Tandin Sonam).

The clash between American individualism and Bhutanese values adds depth to the narrative, showcasing the tension between two different worlds.

Convergence and Reflection

“The Monk and the Gun” beautifully brings together its various storylines, with characters intersecting in unexpected ways. Similar to Robert Altman’s style, the film presents a tapestry of lives intertwined, each playing a vital role in the overall narrative.

The Bhutanese countryside itself becomes a character, with wide shots capturing the harmony between nature and the characters’ journeys. The convergence of these storylines takes place at a stupa, a sacred place symbolizing transition and self-reflection.

The Price of Happiness and Modernization

At its core, “The Monk and the Gun” raises questions about the price of modernization and the pursuit of happiness. As Bhutan goes through significant changes, the film explores whether progress should come at the expense of the country’s unique identity and the happiness of its people. It challenges the notion that the value of things lies solely in their economic worth, emphasizing the importance of preserving cultural heritage and community bonds.


“The Monk and the Gun” is a delightful political satire that offers a witty and insightful commentary on the complexities of democracy, family, and cultural transition. Dorji{finish}


1. Is “The Monk and the Gun” based on a true story?

No, “The Monk and the Gun” is a fictional film. While it explores themes of democracy and cultural transition, the story and characters are not based on real events or individuals.

2. What is the significance of the guns in the film?

The guns in the film symbolize various themes, including power, change, and the influence of American culture. They serve as a metaphor for the impact of external influences on Bhutan’s traditional way of life.

3. Can I stream “The Monk and the Gun” online?

As of now, “The Monk and the Gun” is not available for streaming. However, you can keep an eye out for future release announcements and screenings to enjoy this thought-provoking film.