An ambitious first feature from director Siddharth Anand Kumar, his two scenarists and their production company, “Semshook” uses real-life poet/activist Tenzin Tsundue’s writings as inspiration for a fictional counterpart’s journey to the homeland he’s never seen. Impressive as a travelogue and in technical terms (especially since it was shot on location in just four weeks), pic is more uneven in its episodic narrative, emotional impact and conveyance of spiritual awakening. Interest in Tibet’s independence struggles and Buddhism in general should attract some exposure beyond the fest circuit.
Raised in Dharamsala, India’s Tibetan-exile capital, Tenzin (Tenzin Younden) reaches adulthood bursting with identity questions neither of his parents are alive to answer. “Who am I? Chinese? Indian? Tibetan?” he asks. He decides to retrace his father’s journey in reverse, heading east into ever more remote territory, with Tibet his illegal-entry goal. En route, he encounters a “rucksack brotherhood” of hippies, thieves, his Indian stepmother, monks and more. Last-lap histrionics are strained, while the protag’s murky eventual enlightenment will resonate most for those acquainted with Buddhist philosophy. But widescreen landscape lensing and other assured packaging elements make this a scenic if bumpy trip.