Sky Dancer is a film about the daily life and teachings of one of Tibetan Buddhism’s great female masters. In a world where ethnic and political tensions are driving people apart, we are transported to a community where Chinese and Tibetan students study together and are treated as equals. Khandroma Kunzang Wangmo the matriarch and spiritual leader of a remote area on the Tibetan plateau is one of very few women ever to receive a position of power in Tibetan Buddhism. Even more rare, she is the descendant of two extremely significant and highly respected masters of Tibetan Buddhism. The film is an inside look at the daily life and journey of this extraordinary woman who is a living example of wisdom and compassion in a world that so often seems to be lacking genuine examples of both.Read More
Khandroma Kunzang Wangmo was a remarkable contemporary yogini from an area know as Dzachuka in Eastern Tibet. The grand-daughter of Dudjom Lingpa as well as the daughter of Jigme Chokyi Wangpo, the fourth reincarnation of Dza Patrul Rinpche, she is highly revered by many. Known as just Khandroma or simply ‘Ama’ meaning ‘mother’, she was both a laywoman and lineage holder of the Dudjom and Longchen Nyingthig lineages. As a woman in Tibet, it is extremely rare to be authorized to give empowerments and teach from a lofty throne. As a young child, Khandroma was recognized for her special qualities and given an education, something virtually unheard of for girls in her society. He father, a renowned Dzogchen master, predicted that she would be the one to continue his lineage.
Khandroma was a prominent leader and guide to her entire community. People came to her, often from very long distances, to ask for her help and guidance. Whether she offered a prayer for their deceased relatives or clothing for their backs, she always provided what people needed. Khandroma was very active in preserving her religious lineage. She oversaw, renovated, and expanded her father’s two monasteries at Arikza and Dzagya. Dzagya monastery was once a famous place of study and practice founded by Patrul Rinpoche himself. Khandroma considered that her life’s work to be renovating the buildings, including the main temple. However, her main focus was to add to the monastery a monastic college, or shedra, where monks could pursue higher education.
Khandroma Kunzang Wangmo was perhaps best known for her accomplishments as a practitioner of chod. She was known to have mastered the Dudjom Chod practice, and it is believed that she could travel to other realms and liberate beings there. Khandroma became famous in her region after she successfully performed an exorcism on the wife of an official in her village. However, most her time was spent performing shabtens or elaborate rituals for the deceased.
Khandroma was considered the matriarch, not just of her own family, but of the entire region. Although she had no children of her own, she adopted many children and disciples in need, both Tibetan and Chinese alike. In this way, she helped bridge the gap between these two cultures, which have historically been so divided. Her unbiased and boundless compassion were perhaps her most exceptional qualities. When asked what was the most important thing she had accomplished in her life, Khandroma responded, “I have searched for my mind…. where it came from, where it is going, where it will remain. That is all that I do. There is nothing bigger then that, which I can tell you.”Read More
Jody Kemmerer’s documentary, Sky Dancer, stems from her interest in Tibet which began in 2000 after she visited a Tibetan refugee settlement in Northern India. Ever since, she has been working to develop and gather support for monasteries, schools, health clinics and retreat centers in Eastern Tibet. Kemmerer has focused her work with Tibetans on empowering young women. She decided to produce a film about a strong female role model to inspire Eastern and Western audiences alike. She is also the founder of the Tibetan Women’s Health Initiative, a program aimed at lowering the high mortality among new mothers and infants in Tibet. Kemmerer began making films in 2003 in New York City under award-winning documentarian Nina Rosenblum. Sky Dancer is her directorial debut.
Andre Lambertson is a New York based photojournalist who is committed to documenting stories of hope, healing and transformation. He creates aware-winning photo essays on social issues for magazines, books, foundations, advocacy organizations, and art museums such as Time, Life, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, The Ford Foundation, The George Soros Foundation, The International Center of Photography, The Smithsonian. Lambertson has received three Picture of the Year Awards, The World Press Photo Award, George Soros Media Fellowship, and the Pulitzer Center Grant for work about child soldiers in Ghana. alambertson.com and andrelambertson.com
Carla Ruff is an award-winning editor whose credits include many documentaries about women in developing regions of Asia. She won “Best Editor” at the 2007 Brooklyn International Film Festival for “Daughters of Wisdom” (Dir. Bari Pearlman), a film about Buddhist nuns in a remote Tibetan monastery. Educated in film form NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Carla is also a filmmaker and a 2009 fellow in film from New York Foundation for the Arts. carlaruff.com
Peter Buffett is an Emmy Award-winning musician with an acclaimed career that spans more than 28 years as a professional songwriter, producer, artist, performer, recording engineer, independent label owner and composer for film and television. peterbuffett.com
Tashi Phuntsok has been a tour guide to researchers, filmmakers, photographers, explorers and backpackers throughout Tibet. Having been a monk for 15 years, Tashi Phuntsok is highly educated in Tibetan Buddhism, the history of the Tibetan plateau, and the ancient and modern culture of all Tibetan regions. He is passionate about Tibetan music, photography and film. Tashi Phunstok is also an experienced photographer and videographer who enjoys shooting remote landscapes and documenting the daily life of Tibetans nomands. He lives in the city of Xining where he owns and operates a successful travel and tour company Travel Wild Tibet. travelwildtibet.com