When the Iron Bird Flies

Directed by Victress Hitchcock

Release Year: 2012
Running Time: 96
Color Type: Color and B&W
Country: U.S.
Language: English
Closed Captioned: Yes
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Screening Info
Fleet Maull
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Tsoknyi Rinpoche
Anam Thubten
Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel
Matthieu Ricard
E. Gene Smith
Lama Tsultrim Allione
Richard Gere
Dr. Richard Davidson
Dr. Reginald Ray
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Directed by Victress Hitchcock

'When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the face of the earth." - Guru Padmasambhava of Tibet, 8th Century

In 1959, the Chinese invasion of Tibet threw open the doors to the mysterious realm of Tibetan Buddhism and suddenly this rich, ancient tradition was propelled into the modern world. Half a century later, Padmasambhava's prophecy has come true and the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism are found in every corner of the earth.

WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES takes us on an up-close and personal journey following the astounding path of one of the world's great spiritual traditions from the caves of Tibet to the mainstream of Western culture. Along the way, the film tackles the provocative exchanges between Buddhist practitioners and scholars and Western scientists, psychologists, and educators now at the heart of the emergence of a genuine Western tradition of Buddhism.

And the film investigates the question: In these increasingly challenging times, can these profound teachings help us find genuine happiness and create a saner, more compassionate 21st century world?

Through candid interviews with contemporary teachers and practitioners, rare archival footage, and striking images of modern life that illuminate and make accessible the Buddha's core teachings, the film creates a vivid and entertaining portrait of the world of Tibetan Buddhism, as it is manifesting in America and the West.


Educational Reviews

"When we might speak in general of Buddhism spreading to the West, we can lose track of the great diversity that constitutes the many Buddhist traditions now present throughout the world. Highly sympathetic and informative, this film wisely chooses a more finely grained focus specifically on Tibetan Buddhism as a tradition "in the West." Researchers, educators and anyone interested in the cultural journey of Tibetan Buddhism will find it a key resource for understanding much about Buddhism in our late modern world." John D. Dunne, Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Emory University

"This documentary offers a good introduction to Tibetan Buddhism within a historical context. Recommended." - Video Librarian (Three stars)

"An intimate, compelling look at how the timeless teachings of contemporary Tibetan Buddhist lamas address the big questions--and doubts--of the contemporary west, seen through the narratives of leading practitioners, scholars, and researchers. The photography is dazzling, the portraits extraordinary, the flow natural and engaging. An excellent Facilitator's Guide supports classroom discussion of the central themes. This film lifts Tibetan Buddhism out of mere historical exoticism, making it direct and relevant." - Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies, Naropa University, author of Dakini's Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism (Shambhala)

"When the Iron Bird Flies offers a lively, gripping and down-to-earth introduction to the most basic of human truths: the ways in which our minds are never lastingly satisfied and our existential uneasiness -- and how we can finally find peace. I highly recommend it." Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence

Critical Acclaim

“When the Iron Bird Flies is a creative and wide-ranging guide to the spread of a rich spiritual tradition. It’s an invaluable resource to newcomers and seasoned devotees of Tibetan Buddhism.”

"When the Iron Bird Flies paints a compelling portrait of modern Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet"

"The film is a vivid and engaging account of the movement of the Buddha Dharma - the teachings and practices of Buddhism - to the West...Viewers of the film will come away with the discovery that they have learned a great deal. But even more, their hearts will have been opened and perhaps melted by the uplifting gift of genuine spirituality as it flows from teacher to student in a pattern free of time, showing us the way to go beyond the suffering and upheavals of our days and years."

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