Can we trust HBO with “Sesame Street”?
Of course. Because HBO can be sensitive and sweet as well as ribald and irreverent.
Tonight at 8 p.m., there’s a reminder of the cable giant’s gentle side: “Tashi and the Monk,” a documentary directed by Andrew Hinton and Johnny Burke about former monk who started a school in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas for children with no hope for a future unless he takes them in.
Phuntsok knows what it’s like to be a lost child. When he was born, his unwed mother hid him under leaves. His grandparents heard his cries, rescued him and raised him, until his bad behavior — breaking windows, hitting cows — made them send him to a monastery. One teacher helped him change. He went on to study with the Dalai Lama and teach about Buddhism in the U.S., then returned home a decade ago to found Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community (that’s Tibetan for “garden of love and compassion”). The school is supported by donations.
Tashi is the newest arrival, a girl of about 5 whose mother has died and whose father is an alcoholic. She hits kids, wets her bed and likes to chew on broken glass.
Phuntsok is a loving yet firm father figure. He tells her: “Sometimes being naughty is OK but the rest of the time you have to study and listen to your elders.”
The 42-minute film has no fancy camerawork, no celebrity narrator, just a series of intimate moments focusing on Tashi and Phuntsok, who only has room for 85 children at his school but is haunted by the hundreds of requests he’s received from villagers begging him to take in more.
Who besides HBO would air such a quiet and thoughtful film? Oh, yeah, maybe PBS.
Read more of Marc’s TV musings: