Blessings: The Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns of Tibet (2009)
1h 44min · Documentary · 14 November 2009
In Tibet, the word for woman translates as "lower rebirth." In a remote eastern region of the country, the Tsoknyi Nangchen nuns defy this definition. Devoted to the ancient practices of Tibetan Buddhism - once primarily a male domain - over 3,000 nuns have attained elevated status. Director Victress Hitchcock honors them in this moving documentary, which follows the journey of a small group of Western women to remote mountain hermitages to meet these nuns. Buddhist teacher and spiritual leader Tsoknyi Rinpoche III leads the group, imparts his knowledge, and bridges the gap between cultures. Narrated by Richard Gere, Blessings explains the Tibetan Buddhist monastic system and the changing role of women within it, incorporating historic black-and-white footage from the 1960s Cultural Revolution of the People's Republic of China, when all forty Nangchen nunneries were destroyed. Many of the nuns were imprisoned in work camps; others scattered back to their nomadic families. A few survivors hid in caves until, years later, they surfaced to rebuild the nunneries, stone by stone. Elders who kept the yogic tradition alive now teach it to young women. Hitchcock interviews both the nuns and the women who come so far, physically and spiritually, to meet them. The former, some fresh from a three-year retreat, explain why they chose their path; the latter speak candidly of the trip's profound impact upon them, as egos and twenty-first-century concerns fall away. Inspirational as it is, though, Blessings doesn't lack a lighter side. In one memorable scene, the nuns chant and play their music for their guests, who respond in kind by dancing to the tune of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
- Written by
Starz Denver Film Festival
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