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New York Film Premiere

Friday, April 28, 2023
7:00 PM–9:15 PM

Most of us think of death as something clear-cut, and that medical science has it neatly figured out. The feature documentary Tukdam: Between Worlds by Donagh Coleman explodes such assumptions through its exploration of a phenomenon that blurs life and death to an unprecedented degree. In what Tibetan Buddhists call tukdam, advanced meditators die in a consciously controlled manner. Though dead according to our biomedical standards, they often stay sitting upright in meditation; remarkably, their bodies remain fresh and lifelike, without signs of decay for days, sometimes weeks after clinical death. Following ground-breaking scientific research into tukdam and taking us into intimate death stories of Tibetan meditators, the film juxtaposes scientific and Tibetan perspectives as it tries to unravel the mystery of this interstitial state.

The screening is preceded by a 6:15 PM guided tour of the exhibition Death Is Not the End and followed by a Q&A with neuroscientist Dr. Richie Davidson and filmmaker Donagh Coleman.

About the Filmmaker

Donagh Coleman
Photo by Lharigtso

Finnish-Irish-American filmmaker Donagh Coleman holds degrees in Philosophy and Psychology and Music and Media Technologies from Trinity College Dublin, and a MA in Asian Studies from UC Berkeley. Previous films include A Gesar Bard’s Tale (winner of best documentary film at the 2014 First Peoples’ Festival in Montreal and premiered at the Rubin), and Stone Pastures (winner of the Grand Prix prize at the 2009 Cervino Cinemountain International Film Festival in Italy). Besides films and TV-docs, Donagh directs radio documentaries for the Finnish and Irish national broadcasters. His radio feature Gesar! was Finland’s entry for the 2012 Prix Italia competition, and his feature Do I Exist? was Finland’s entry for the 2015 Prix Europa competition. Donagh has also worked as a TV journalist and presenter for the Finnish broadcaster YLE News. He is currently doing a PhD in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley, continuing the research conducted for his 2022 feature documentary on meditative Tibetan Buddhist tukdam deaths.

Richie Davidson

Richie Davidson is best known for his groundbreaking work studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, Time magazine named Davidson one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006. His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style, as well as methods to promote human flourishing, including meditation and related contemplative practices. Davidson is the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin”“Madison where he has been a faculty member since 1984. He is the founder of Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc., an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. On the Advisory Council of the Rubin, his Brainwave appearances include a conversation with filmmaker Khyentse Norbu and in conjunction with the premiere of the film Free the Mind about his research on meditation and trauma. He most recently joined Zainab Salbi for a film to launch the Rubin’sMandala Lab in Bilbao in 2022.

Death Is Not the End is supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, and The Prospect Hill Foundation.

The Rubin Museum’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of Governor Kathy Hochcul and the New York State Legislature.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.


Tickets: $22.00
Member Tickets: $17.60

A ticket grants access to the screening of TUKDAM in the theater, including a Q&A with neuroscientist Dr. Richie Davidson and filmmaker Donagh Coleman, as well as a pre-program tour of the 6th floor Death Is Not the End exhibition.