Tricycle Film Club

Buddhist films and discussion for the
Tricycle Community

February Film Club: When the Iron Bird Flies

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Welcome to the Tricycle film club!

In 1959, the Chinese invasion of Tibet threw open the doors to the mysterious realm of Tibetan Buddhism. Suddenly this rich, ancient tradition was propelled into the modern world. 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, Western scientists, psychologists, and educators now at the heart of the emergence of a genuine Western tradition of Buddhism. 

The film investigates the question, "In these increasingly challenging times, can these age-old teachings help us find genuine happiness and create a saner, more compassionate 21st century world?"

Both a fascinating tour of history and a compelling portrait of contemporary spiritual life, the film weaves a vivid and entertaining mosaic of the world of Tibetan Buddhism as it is manifesting in America and the West today.

Throughout the month, director and producer Victress Hitchcock, as well as the film's editor, Catherine Hollander, will be available to answer any questions you have about the making of the film. Post your questions and comments below, and they will get back to you soon.

*When the Iron Bird Flies was shown last summer as part of our online film festival. Since then, the film has been re-cut and re-edited. What we're featuring this month is the final version. Enjoy! 


PLEASE NOTE: If you are having technical difficulties watching the film, please do not leave a comment below. Instead, call our support services at 1-800-873-9871 or email them at They will address your concerns promptly.

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Victress Hitchcock's picture

Hi Ron,
I hope you enjoy the movie. Your description of what it means to "wake up" is definitely central to what the film is about. Let us know your thoughts after watching.

ekoangel's picture

Loved this film, so heartening... poignant and relevant! Well done and thank you

zhiwa.woodbury's picture

Wow - Bravo! I think I've probably seen just about every documentary on Buddhism in general, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, and this is by far the best one I've seen. It covered so much ground so seamlessly, and I really appreciate the way it brought everything very current, right up to Anam Thubten! He's about as contemporary as Tibetan teachers get right now. Wonderful contribution to social awakening here. You should really feel contented by this effort.

Victress Hitchcock's picture

Wow, thank you so much for your kind words. Anam Thubten was a gift to the film in so many ways. And he will be attending the West Coast Premiere in San Rafael on March 1 and speaking afterwards. It promises to be an extraordinary evening.

worthmoremusic's picture

I so look forward to this evening and Anam's talk... Wonderful film..thank you ! _/l\_

michca53's picture

What joy I had watching this film........I shed a few tears, laughed, and absorbed some wonderful information. I am not able to practice in a group setting, so the Tricycle community is my "family". Thank you for sharing this wonderful film with us.

gyurme_choga's picture

The snow is falling in North Dakota, and the winds are beginning to blow; but there is calm, peace and wellbeing present. Thank you. This documentary reminds me that I have much more work to do within myself in Oder to be of more service and benefit to others. _/\_

Victress Hitchcock's picture

I love the image of the snow falling.. very beautiful sense of wellbeing in your email. Thank you.

Katarina Fischer's picture

Thank you for making this superb collection of different aspects in Buddhism today. This is for sure one of the most touching and deep movie I have seen in modern times. Thank you for your time and commitment to complete this film and making it available to us. I am sure it will change many peoples lives to the better, planting seeds of reflection, bodhicitta and true awareness. My heart is touched to the core. All the best to you!

meditatortoo's picture

This film was even more fantastic second time around, it is so fill of hope. Thank you everyone involved in making and bringing it to me ...

James Mullaney's picture

A very satisfying film. Thank you.

I spent the day reading "Buddhist Goddesses of India" by Miranda Shaw; so viewing this film tonight about the Tibetan transmission of the dharma to the West has fully rounded out my daily Buddhist studies.

mpuenteduany's picture

Thank you for showing this wonderful film. I felt such joy when I saw the nun become the first woman Geshe. Thank you again!

TW77's picture

I would say hands down the best documentary on Tricycle I've seen. I can't wait to watch it again. I could watch a whole documentary on the young woman who goes on a 5 month retreat. I can't believe she was able to do it!! It was so cool to see all the different angles. What an editing job...that must have taken a loooooonng time to complie that.

Very cool...

Victress Hitchcock's picture

Thanks so much.. I shared this with Catherine Hollander, the incredible editor of the film. And with Bridget whose 5 month retreat inspired you, as it did me. She will be in NYC at the Rubin Museum with Lama Tsultrim and the film on March 16.. if you are near there.. check it out! Her hair has grown out, but its still brown.

Catherine Hollander's picture

Thanks everyone, for your great comments. As the editor of the film with director Victress Hitchcock, I'll be joining the discussion from time to time. I'm looking forward to the continued conversation!

Kunga.Chodzin's picture

Oh wow, I really enjoyed this film. I would have loved to have seen a Canadian connection, but what a resources this is for my family and friends who are not sure what to make of, "the buddhist" in the family!

Victress Hitchcock's picture

I'm so glad you enjoyed it and that it can help demystify your path for your family and friends! That was one of our goals..
I am sorry too about not making it up to Canada to film but we do have one Canadian connection - one of the main music composers is Mikyo Dorje/Loopsy Dazy - a second generation western Tibetan Buddhist and Dharma practitioner living and playing music in Toronto. He is hoping to organize a screening of the film there and involve some of the sanghas in the city. Blessings, Victress

Indigo44's picture

Victress, I like this production. I found it very informative and moving as each person told about their life.
Thank you for putting this together.

Eliza's picture

Thanks for a wonderful film.
It was lovely to see so many familiar faces and some new ones too. A great moment to see Kelsang Wangmo sitting in the front row!
I did have one question: do you know what Bridget Bailey is up to now (if you can tell us, that is?) I was curious because she made such a split from her life to go on retreat.

Victress Hitchcock's picture

Hi Eliza,
Bridget has continued as a very dedicated practitioner.. and she also went back to school and is completing her MBA at Duke University. So, she has managed to integrate the two... On March 16 at 6 PM she is scheduled to join Lama Tsultrim at a showing of the film at the Rubin Museum in NY. Not to be missed!

Eliza's picture

Thanks for your response. I'm glad to hear that she continues her practice! How nice that she'll be at the Rubin Museum with Lama Tsultrim - that'll be a wonderful event, I'm sure.
Best wishes,

kempf42's picture


I enjoyed this film a lot but I was left wondering about the origin of the title, the original prophecy by Padmasambava. It would have been great to have a scholar such as Bob Thurman come on at the beginning and say a few words about the prophecy: what book it occurred in and the circumstances about its being made. Tibetan Buddhism has such great stories and I'm sure there's a good one around this too.


Victress Hitchcock's picture

Hello Jak,
I first heard this prophecy in the early 70's when His Holiness 16th Karmapa made is first trip to the US. I always loved the phrase, so when we began the movie, we began to call it that... not necessarily planning on actually using it as the title. But, it stuck. I did ask Gene Smith from the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in his interview what he knew about the prophecy. He said he had spent years trying to find its earliest source. The closest he could come was in a reference from the beginning of the 20th century. As it is attributed to Padmasambhava, one explanation is that it could be a "terma" or "hidden treasure" that Padmasambhave left for a later time. But, I am certainly not qualified to make that determination. An early 20th century reference is interesting in itself! I have heard from Lama Rangbar, a Western Lama from the Bodhivastu Project ( that he has done a lot of research on prophesies. He might be able to help you.

Marfa_Danilovna's picture

Victress, thank you for your work and, in particular, for telling Kelsang Wangmo's story.
I finished watching the film about 20 mins ago and I'm still crying with joy.

koshin's picture

Question, again-
how does one find a DVD of this one?
powerful for our prison sangha (Milwaukee Zen Ctr Meditation program) Thanks
ko shin, Bob Hanson

Victress Hitchcock's picture

Hi Bob,

I am so glad you think the film would be helpful for your prison sangha. I agree.. and I know Fleet Maull does too. We would like to see it shown in as many prison meditation programs as possible. The film is being distributed by Alive Mind Cinema and you can find it on their website at Contact them with your request and they would be happy to provide you with a copy to show to your group.