‘I really wish I could see you,’ Jennifer Fox tells her audience more than once via Skype after the London premiere of her new film My Reincarnation [held at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, Sunday 4th September 2011]. She is smiling on the big screen in front of us, perhaps from her kitchen table in New York, and we are all watching, which is something Jennifer has allowed us to do before when she turned the camera on herself in her previous film Flying: Confessions of A Free Woman.
I read between the lines. It’s the filmmaker’s curiosity of her audience, her desire to gauge our reactions but also her desire to fully engage. This intense desire to connect that drives Jennifer’s work is what I love most about it. She smiles and waits for a question, a comment, for us to find our nerve. Some of us are still drying our eyes.
‘I can never watch footage of Tibet without bursting into tears,’ my friend had whispered into my ear during a particularly moving homecoming scene. I cannot say I felt this way before but somehow on this night I knew exactly what she meant.
Jennifer’s new film My Reincarnation actually began over twenty years ago when she picked up her camera and started filming the Tibetan spiritual master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his family. At the time Jennifer was working as his private secretary, a job that granted her tremendous access. By her own admission she had no idea what would become of the footage and she wondered when the material took shape whether it could have appeal beyond a Buddhist audience. But she sensed to keep filming, year after year.
Even when filming stopped the road was not easy. Like many filmmakers – including myself – Jennifer needed money to finish and so she started a campaign on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. It was a huge success and after raising over 150,000 USD she is currently one of the site’s record-holders.
When the London audience recovers and the questions and comments roll in they are overwhelmingly positive. During the Q&A session Jennifer draws a parallel between meditation and filmmaking as both requiring awareness. The audience is rewarded by her presence (mental, not physical) in the tiny moments throughout the film where another filmmaker may have turned off the camera already satisfied that they got what they were looking for.
After twenty years of filming what emerges is the story of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his Italian son Yeshi who at birth is recognized as the reincarnation of a well-known spiritual master. During the course of the film we witness not only Yeshi’s changing relationship to his father but also the evolution of Yeshi’s relationship to himself.
Once again Jennifer has traveled to another world – specifically to a Tibetan master’s family in Italy – and brought back a film for all of us. My Reincarnation is about the journey home. Not necessarily to a geographic place, but to one’s self.
For more information about the film visit the website.