Nuns Without Rulers

Even before China's ruthless smackdown of demonstrators last week, good news out of Tibet has long been hard to come by. Well, here's a ray of sunshine: On a remote, picturesque plateau north of the Himalayas, some 300 nuns study and train at the Kala Rongo Monastery. This is a big deal in a rural economy where women are typically consigned to child-rearing and manual labor, and the privilege of education and the status of spiritual leadership are largely reserved for men. The intimate documentary Daughters of Wisdom takes us inside the sisterhood, providing a touching and surprising glimpse of a colorful Buddhist institution well into its second decade. Unlike the chant-filled, trancelike Tibetan travelogues that flow year-round through Bay Area theaters, Bari Pearlman’s unassuming film emphasizes the human rather than the sacred. The nuns display a spontaneity and joyfulness — whether herding yaks, taking a zip line across a river, or building a new retreat — that belies the arduous conditions and shortages of food. Their bursts of giddy laughter may or may not be a sign of enlightenment, but they are certainly contagious.
Sun., March 30, 2, 4, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Mon., March 31, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Tue., April 1, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m., 2008

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