On the Eastern Tibetan plateau of Kham, at an altitude of 14,000 feet, subsistence farmers and nomadic herding families sprinkle the craggy mountains of Nangchen. Their way of life has changed little in over 2,000 years, and for most it is a life of illiteracy, poverty and hunger.
In Nangchen, everyone is born Buddhist and practices it in some way, as it is believed to be the only path out of suffering. It is therefore an honor for a family to have a son become a monk and practice and study Buddhism without distraction. Living at a monastery, he transcends the hardships of everyday life and is granted spiritual training, education, and status as a community leader. But this has traditionally never been an option for a daughter, whose only “value” in a family is to be married off in exchange for livestock, or bear children who can become workers on the family farm. Within the socio-economic realities of daily life of Nangchen, it was believed that to educate a woman was a waste of valuable resources.
Now, for the first time, the women of Nangchen are being given the chance to change the course of their lives. Built with their own hands and always expanding, the Kala Rongo Monastery is home to nearly 300 nuns who study and practice full-time, creating new opportunities for themselves and for the community they serve. Daughters of Wisdom is an intimate experiential portrait of these nuns, who are receiving unprecedented educational and spiritual training, and preserving their rich cultural heritage even as they slowly reshape it. Some shy, some outspoken, all committed to the often difficult life they have chosen, the nuns graciously allowed our camera a never-before-seen glimpse into their vibrant spiritual community and insight into their extraordinary lives.
Official selections: Vancouver International Film Festival 2007, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2008, Leeds International Film Festival 2008