Buddha.mov

Need to get laid? Forget all those pills and scammy websites. A documentary can get you sex for nothing more than a few social media posts and a cousin with a camera.

Buddha.mov is a brilliantly honest hybrid of reality and fantasy examining the interplay between sex and social media. Buddha Mangaldas, a handsome big-league cricket star in tropical Goa, gives Director Kabir Mehta (his cousin) unrestricted access to the infrastructure and intimacies of his bohemian bacchanalia. Professing that “pussy is what I live for”, Buddha devotes his life to building his identity as a sex symbol. He makes flyers for his Instagram account (@Buddha.gram) and promotes himself as a #moviestar. Functioning as a steroid to Buddha’s playboy muscle, the documentary becomes its own subject – a case study in how the production of a film can be used to build social stature.

“…a brilliantly honest hybrid of reality and fantasy examining the interplay between sex and social media…”

Screen-captures of Buddha’s phone layered over gorgeous observational footage reveal how the #workinprogress film both support and bare naked his pursuit of sex and fame. We see him browsing his Wikipedia page and communicating on Facebook or Instagram, sometimes with ostensibly real people and sometimes with planted profiles (@cairinamoire). Buddha’s Tinder profile reads:

“PRO CRICKETER AND MOVISTAR IN THE MAKING. If you aren’t here to hookup, you might as well have swiped left…. If you match the above you might end up in my movie 😉”.

The first six shots, each about a minute long, are voyeuristic still compositions of Buddha going about his daily training and fornicating routine. My jaw dropped when, in the fifth minute, the film presents an unprocessed sexual encounter – no cuts, no camera movement, just real sex. Long, distant sex scenes, some with women lured by his Tinder entreaty, recur throughout. In a phone conversation with the director, we hear Buddha explain his strategy to maintain his heavy sexual appetite (his phone reminds him to contact five women he’s slept with each day), revealing the pipes behind the walls of his hunky persona, the method behind the macho. On camera, Buddha discusses women with more sensitivity, changing his language to cover the shallowness of the assembly-line sex machine he’s become. Most memorable is a scene in which he struggles to convince an older couple that he could have children with many women while acting as a responsible, present father for all of them.

“…a steroid to Buddha’s playboy muscle, the documentary becomes its own subject…”

A contemporary combination of Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March and Joe Swanberg’s The Zone, Buddha.mov finds art in the shameless pursuit of women by deconstructing the systems that facilitate his escapades. Buddha’s lifestyle isn’t exactly agreeable, but the willingness to expose himself (despite being fueled by vanity) deserves considerable commendation. In the vein of Swanberg and Caveh Zahedi, we see Buddha watching an early draft of the film and reflecting on how friends and family might react. At one point he comments on the scene with a poor construction worker: “Fuck this is good stuff man! Festivals love this class shit you know”. Yes, Buddha, we do – and even more so we love that you’re thinking of us, and showing us such a transparent view of who you are and who you want to be. We appreciate the honesty.

Buddha.mov (2018) Directed by Kabir Mehta; Starring Buddha Mangaldas; Shot by Reebok Singh; Edited by Henry Lawer; Produced by Aakash Bhatia Kabir Mehta. Buddha.mov played in the Feature  Competition section of the 2018 Ann Arbor Film Festival.

9 out of 10 Oscars

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