Last Thursday saw the launch of the trailer for Daughters of Dolma, a feature-length produced by St Andrews students which explores the lives of Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in Nepal.
The brain-child of Alexander Co, a third year Social Anthropology and Psychology student, Daughters of Dolma investigates the experience of modern women following an ancient way of life. Based on a month of filming in two convents near Kathmandu, the documentary reveals the paradox of traditionally-robed nuns who rise before dawn to begin their worship, yet play football, drink Pepsi and use Facebook.
Whilst brightly-robed Buddhist monks are a well-known symbol of Tibetan culture, their female counter-parts receive less attention. As Nadia Buhova, the film’s communications co-ordinator, explained: “There’s a difference in how monks and nuns are portrayed. There’s not enough on nuns.”
Adam Miklos, a fourth year student and the director of the documentary, says that he tried to go beyond the amazing visual spectacle, and show the nuns’ actual lives. He didn’t want “just National Geographic pictures”. Other members of the six-student team agree.
Stefan Salow, a fourth-year Economics student and one of the project’s members, stated that the strength of Daughters of Dolma “is that it’s personal. We spent enough time with [the nuns] to get into their lives and hopes.” In his speech at the trailer’s screening, Alexander Co declared: “We found something that hasn’t been explained or shared with many.”
At the event last Thursday in St Andrews Town Hall, the unveiling of the trailer was preceded by talks from students involved in the project and from key backers within the University. During the evening tribute was paid to the students’ persistence and determination in producing the film. Professor Mario Aguilar, Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics, declared that they “have been a great inspiration.”
Daughters of Dolma uncovers a way of life on the other side of the world. Yet, by bringing together six students from different cultures and disciplines, in many ways the film is a distinctively St Andrews project. According to Professor Lorna Milne, the University’s Proctor, the students exemplify St Andrews’ “terrific variety and capacity for community”. Meanwhile Buhova admits: “If it wasn’t for St Andrews we wouldn’t have done it.”
This view was echoed by members of the audience. Giulia Zampieri, an exchange student from Verona, said she was “surprised students believe they can create something like this. In Italy it’s very different.” She added, “Studying at St Andrews you have great opportunities. You’re so lucky.”