Directed By Jennifer Fox
A father-son story spaning two decades, My Reincarnation chronicles the journey of a young man who defies, and than accepts, a life path that was not of his own choosing. Born to a Tibetan father, Buddhist Master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and an Italian mother, Yeshi Silvano Namkhai was recognized at birth as a reincarnation of his uncle, Khyntense Rinpoche Chökyi Wangchug. This implies a sense of familial duty present throughout the documentary and raises director Jennifer Fox's central question: Does a person choose his fate or does his fate choose him?
The film is divided into three distinct sections from the life of Yeshi. The first section shows him as a young man, fully aware of the emotional rift between himself and his father. He states, "My father does not understand a father/son relationship. He treats it more like teacher/student," and this lack of intimacy causes Yeshi to resent the responsibilities of the son of a master and a reincarnation.
Thirteen years on, we meet Yeshi as an IBM worker and family man. Meanwhile, his father, by now a well-known teacher and speaker, has been diagnosed with cancer, though despite his delicate condition he maintains his demanding schedule of far-flung engagements, out of a sense of duty to the Dzogchen community that he leads. Dzogchen, or "Great Perfection," is a central teaching of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, and considered the highest and most definitive path to enlightenment.
By now, Yeshi has resumed his active practice of Buddhism, and becomes a consultant of sorts, using his business skills to help Dzogchen Buddhist practitioners put together retreats all over Europe. The film is punctuated throughout by effects-driven visions of water, to evoke the inexplicable dreams Yeshi has when he starts practicing again: here, the recurrent image is of breaking through the surface that he had previously seemed to hold him under.
In the third and final section of the documentary, Yeshi quits his job and finally, ironically becomes his father's student. After a few years of training at his father's side, Yeshi goes to Tibet and is officially, enthusiastically greeted as Rinpoche, "precious one." He asks his to help him decipher what his dreams mean, but Norbu just listens and doesn't respond. He seems indifferent to Yeshi's drastic change of heart, and seems less than reflective about how his time-consuming work as a spiritual master has affected his family. Even as Yeshi comes to terms with his destiny, the viewer never gets any candid opinions from Norbu about his relationship to his son, who maintains an impenetrable exterior.