Tibetan director Pema Tseden’s new film, Balloon, captures a family torn between their traditional farming community and modernity. The film is one of the best acquisition titles at TIFF!9.
Tibetan director Pema Tseden’s family drama, Balloon, captures a family torn between their traditional farming community and modernity. Set in the picturesque Tibetan plains, shephard Dargye and his wife Drolkar have three boys: one teenager who they scrape enough money together to send to school, and two younger children who stay at home. Aside from Dargye’s motorcycle, life on their farm seems much like it has probably been for hundreds of years. But this appearance is deceiving. In the nearby town, there is a modern women’s health clinic where the doctor encourages her patients to limit their family size (the titular balloons are actually condoms Drolkar’s children steal and inflate).
Traditional values and modern autonomy clash when Drolkar becomes pregnant with a fourth child, partly because her children stole the condoms to be balloons. Drolkar’s doctor encourages an abortion because of how tight money already is for the family. Dargye, however, is told by a local lama that his father will be reincarnated in their next child, meaning he sees Drolkar’s abortion as denying this reincartion. Despite this tension, Tseden is never preachy, playing this conflict out in softly observed vignettes; the plot often slips to focus instead on the emotional ripples of the conflict’s emotional aftermath.
Balloon is still seeking film distribution in the US, UK, and Canada.
Screens 9/9 at 9:45 p.m. (Scotiabank) and 9/14 at 9:30 a.m. (Scotiabank). Tickets here.