POLAND | 2018
English, Bengali and Polish with English subtitles
Directed by Małgorzata Dobrowolska
*There will be a post-screening discussion with the film director at the end of the Premiere
**After the Premiere, the film continues to be available for online viewing until 13 September 2020, 11:59pm.
Shortly after Enlightenment, the Buddha said: “I shall not come to my final passing away, until my Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples… ” Even though the Buddha established the Bhikkhunī order, the line of female ordination in the Theravāda tradition died out in the 11th century. Since then, it is a common belief that nuns can no longer be ordained.
BHIKKHUNI presents the story of women who, in order to implement the Buddha’s teachings, become fully ordained Bhikkhunīs, against the opinion of the monks’ Saṅgha. The film’s protagonists are Bhikkhunī Kusuma from Sri Lanka (ordained in 1996 in India), Bhikkhunī Dhammananda from Thailand (ordained in 2003 in Sri Lanka) and Bhikkhunī Gautami from Bangladesh (ordained in 2016 in Sri Lanka) – the first women in their countries’ modern history to become fully ordained nuns.
Małgorzata Dobrowolska was born in Warsaw, Poland, and is an activist and documentary filmmaker who focuses on stories about women. She travels the world to document situations of women in main religions and other spiritual movements. She deeply believes that the key to reach world peace is to restore balance between the energy of men and women and bring about a change on a spiritual level.
Małgorzata Dobrowolska holds a Degree in Psychology and Multi-media and has participated in many filmmaking courses such as a reportage workshop, Norwegian-Polish documentary workshops, video clip school and a screenwriting course at the Historical Film Academy.
As a child, I wondered why women cannot be ordained. I was surprised with the insignificant role women play in the Catholic Church and the fact that only men are allowed to preach and make important decisions. Later, I realised that this same inequality is present in all major religions and is aimed at preserving the patriarchal order of the world. This started my search for women who challenge stereotypes.
In February of 2015, on the outskirts of Bangkok, I discovered a Buddhist monastery for women. There, I met 12 wonderful women who, despite the difficulties involved (the official Thai Saṅgha does not recognise ordination of women) became the first contemporary Bhikkhunīs – fully ordained nuns. The ordination ceremony took place in Sri Lanka. I was left with a strong impression after visiting the monastery and learning about the power of these women. I found their story very important as it shows that changes are possible, even in such rigid, religious structures. I decided to tell their story with the help of a documentary. In such a way, my childhood question led me to Sri Lanka, an island also called the “Tear Drop”.