Sunday, September 30, 2007

Two more films were taken in yesterday as I managed to squeeze in a little film festival time. Work hasn't been co-operating since we still don't have an October schedule. I know I'll be working M, T, W since we go away next weekend for the Okanagan marathon but man I'd like to know times. Maybe I can fit one more film in. Just one more.


By accident again I chose two films that related. I purchased the tickets at different times so it wasn't intentional it just happened that way. It must be where my mind is drifting these days.

Both films were about Buddhism in one way or another. The similarities may almost end there except for ideas around food and survival came up in both films. Now I find myself in the middle of these films thinking of the book the Omnivore's Dilemma that I'm reading for the Fall Reading Challenge. Now is not the time for the book though. Let's focus on the films.

Daughters of Wisdom (2007, dir. Bari Pearlman) depicts the nuns of a Tibetan monastery, Kala Rongo. Re-built on land that was once destroyed by the Chinese government when it was wiping out monesteries across Tibet, Kala Rongo is a unique place because it has essentially been built by the women who reside there.
The film reveals the changing role of nuns in an otherwise male dominated realm. What Pearlman leaves with us is the idea that this is a revolutionary site because it encourages the education and the spiritual practice for nuns that normally and traditionally have been preserved for monks only.

The stories emerge from the nuns. Each nun that tells her story expresses her joy at being able to practice buddhism all day. Each one has a unique story and reason for where she is in her life. As a community, work is divided and the camera reveals a hard and poor life, but none complain or suggest that they would rather be anywhere else.

In contrast we meet three women of a herder family that live not far from the monestery. The middle sister of three girls became a nun and it would seem that her position in the family permitted her to do so. The eldest daughter was married off for economic reasons to the family and the youngest sister, while she wanted to become a nun has been chosen to be the daughter that cares for her parents. In other words, she really has no choice. These women do all the work. They tend to the yaks and maintain the house. They gather the water, grow and cook the food. They shear the yaks, churn the butter and care for the men what do they do? The women say that a woman's life is suffering. The men of the herder family sell the meat and dairy in the nearby town. The women say they get to go where ever they want whenever they want and after hearing their few words I come to understand that these women never go beyond where their daily chores take them. They are housebound and accept their life because they are women.

Visually we are given a handheld view of this region. The mountains surround and the rocky landscape further suggests the hard life for these people. I can only imagine this place in winter and how that would further complicate their lives. db said he wished he had seen it in winter, but with only 8 weeks to shoot what she could, Pearlman tries to give us a whole view as best she can. I believe she succeeds as well.

The monestery offers a kind of freedom. While the nuns do still view the monks as above them, the film does suggest that this too, given time, will change. The end of the film shows an election of sorts where 8 nuns are elected to run the monestery's affairs. This is a first and with the film ending on that storyline, we can only feel hope for the future of this place.

This is another film I highly recommend. It is getting a North American release so if you're in a bigger center, chances are it could come your way.

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