Bohemian Buddhist Review

Director of Blessings, Victress Hitchcock Interview

Hard travel to high places

Hitchcock in Nangchen
photo by James Gritz

Victress Hitchcock hopes that her new documentary will give people a glimpse of what the actual experience of being with the Nangchen nuns was like.  “I wanted to give some real flavor of their love, humor, wisdom, and selflessness,” she said.  “Being around them was like being bathed in unconditional love.”  

The highest moments of the filming came almost at the very end of the long and demanding trip, Hitchcock added.  “The best part of the whole trip was the experience with Sherab Zangmo, because it was so unexpected.”  (Sherab Zangmo is the elderly nun interviewed at the very end of “Blessings” and whose unforgettable onscreen presence illuminates the film.)  

“It was after our official visit was over and the translator had gone.  My friend and colleague Barbara Green and I were invited by her two attendants to come back into Sherab Zangmo’s little mud hut.  None of us spoke each other’s language but we communicated with gestures.”  

Hitchcock and Green took turns filming for forty-five minutes. “What was most memorable was the almost palpable atmosphere of love in the hut.”  When it became clear to Sherab Zangmo that her two Western women guests were also students of Tsoknyi Rinpoche, “she seemed to go into high gear,” Hitchcock recalled, smiling.  (Later, she discovered that Sherab Zangmo also felt that because of their “white hair” her guests didn’t have time to “mess around,” meaning with their practice.)  

“And when Sherab Zangmo held my hands [in the unheated hut], they were not just warm, they were hot,” Hitchcock said -- perhaps attributable to her mastery of the inner-heat practice of tummo.  “Everything she did and said felt like such a blessing, she was so alive and present.”  

Hitchcock’s fortuitous last encounter with Sherab Zangmo is what sealed the idea of the film’s title.  “Ironically,” she added, “the day before was when I really hit bottom on the trip.  I just felt that the nuns were so far beyond me, in terms of practice, that we were on different planets.  Tsoknyi Rinpoche told me that if the nuns were asked to make a movie, they’d feel the same way.  That got me out of my poverty reality – and then the next day we had this incredible encounter with a highly- realized woman – and got it on film for others to see.”  Emaho!