Last night was the first screening of My Reincarnation in this country, which fittingly took place at the Rubin Art Museum in Chelsea, a museum dedicated to Himalayan art. This rare documentary, directed by award-winning Jennifer Fox, is a 20-year journey following the esteemed Tibetan Buddhist master, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, and his son, Yeshi, around the world—from Italy to Venezuela, from Russia to Tibet and back again. We share intimate moments with the family, the teachings or times alone, while sitting on Tibetan hilltops or the kitchen table. We witness the passing of spiritual knowledge from a Tibetan Master to his Western-born who must reconcile two parts of himself (eastern and western identities) and find his true path. The other story we witness, is a father-son relationship—one in which has the heartbreaking, common, modern challenges around emotional connection and communication. Yeshi takes us in and allows us to see his father as an ordinary person, while going on his own journey to spiritual awakening.
Rather than capturing a few esoteric scenes and making this a story about a ‘different’ or ‘other’ culture, Fox does the opposite. She creates relatedness and oneness. A raw, honest and ordinary experience taking place in a setting we normally would never have this type of access to (and never will again)–and between an enlightened teacher and his son leaves one awe-struck and could be the foundation of what makes this movie so special, (besides the expansive 20-year period Fox was able to film.) Fox carries us through the film in the most delicate, contemplative and natural fashion, enrapturing us in this father-son relationship and spiritual journey. We sit quietly at Rinpoche’s home listening to him speak to his family, on the cushions in the shrine room to the groups, or swim with him. When we hear Yeshi say now that he’s accepted the teachings, he will surrender his view of Rinpoche as his father, but instead now, as his teacher. This simple statement reveals the root of this Western-born son’s struggle to accept this path—it’s not a spiritual one—he simply wants a father–one he never felt he really had emotional access to.
Rinpoche means ‘precious’ in English—and that’s the word that best describes this film. The extensive filming period, contemplative style that brings us to a meditative state as we watch, and rare access in a time when the last of the reincarnate teachers remain alive makes this film a gift, wrapped with love.
If you would like to participate or donate to get this film worldwide distribution, support the Kickstarter campaign here.