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Documentary Review 101: Excellent The Only Son by Simonka de Jong 2012

The Only Son Simonka de Jong Youtube Video Documentary

I caught this excellent documentary by Simonka de Jong, a 49 years old Dutch filmmaker based in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Youtube the other day. I was amazed by the simplicity of the storyline and yet where the characters in this documentary face some of the toughest conflicts in the daily lives. Image source: Youtube.

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The synopsis of the documentary is as follows:-

Pema is a Tibetan whose plans for the future are being thwarted by his past. He is his parents’ only son, and they want him to return to the village of his birth, marry a local girl and take care of them.

He and his sisters spent their youth in a children’s home in the city, while his parents stayed behind in their remote Himalayan village.

Together with his sisters, one of whom was adopted by a Dutch couple and grew up in the Netherlands, Pema goes to visit the distant village. The only way to their family’s home is a 10-day trek through the mountains. After a warm reunion, tensions quickly rise: the parents expect their only son to accept his responsibility, get married and tend to their land.

But Pema can’t imagine life in this isolated place devoid of computers or books, and he also wants to save his sisters from a similar fate.

With spectacular cinematography of the mountainous landscape as its background, The Only Son presents a sensitive generational conflict that reveals the contrasts between choosing for a primitive life in the mountains, the future that parents want for their children, and the extinction of traditions.

Pema and his Westernized sisters don’t want to abandon their parents, but they also look forward to their own, modern existence.


The Only Son Simonka de Jong Youtube Video Documentary

It is a long walk towards Pema’s village – it takes them 2 flights and 10 days of trekking to reach their village passing by some of the most scenic backgrounds in the valley. 

The expectation of any parents for their only son to take up their family businesses or their land after them is nothing new. But in the case of Pema in this documentary, it is a case of choosing between undergoing the same hardship as his parents AND getting a better life for him and his sisters. In the Pema decides that he will leave his home for a better life for himself and his sisters but promised to do something to help his ageing parents.

The Only Son Simonka de Jong Youtube Video Documentary

Pema having a heart to heart talk with his sister who had stayed with their parents and got married at a very young age. He does not want the same situation for his other younger sisters who are still in school. 

It is a well-made documentary, leaving nothing away from the viewers – personally, Pema’s village is located in one of the beautiful parts of Nepal but clearly, people in the village faces great challenges in terms of modern facilities and roads.

Looking forward to finding another gem of a documentary on Youtube.

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