Tukdam: Between Worlds

A journey through life and death

Tukdam: Between Worlds This feature documentary explores 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 ‘tukdam’.

 Tukdam: Between Worlds
(2022) on IMDb

Festivals and Awards

LaurelGalway Film Fleadh | Official Selection
LaurelInternational Buddhist Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelHelsinki International Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelMill Valley Film Festival | Official Selection
LaurelDharamshala International Film Festival | Official Selection
Laurel DocPoint Tallinn | Official Selection

Reviews and More

'An inspiring and moving film.' - Adele Tomlin, Tricycle.org

The Producers

Donagh Coleman - Director

Finnish-Irish-American filmmaker Donagh Coleman has produced award-winning films with wide international festival and TV exposure including A Gesar Bard's Tale and Stone Pastures. A number of his films have been shown at museums such as MoMA, as well as by the European Commission. Besides films and TV-docs, Donagh also directs radio documentaries for Finnish and Irish national broadcasters. He is currently completing a PhD in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley, continuing research conducted for Tukdam.

Making The Film

Directors Statement

Victorians denied sex; our modern youth-obsessed culture rejects death. Failing to face up to this basic fact of life results in great fear and suffering. Tukdam: Between Worlds shines a light on this inescapable part of life and gives occasion to reflect on what a good death might be. Through its focus on the astonishing phenomenon of tukdam, the feature documentary delves into fundamental questions of life and death, and where we draw the line between them. Far from being abstract philosophical musings, the answers to such questions have major ethical and legal ramifications, bearing on when autopsies and organ harvesting may be carried out, for instance, and how many of us may die in hospitals.
The film follows the first ever scientific research into tukdam by renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson’s team, juxtaposed with tukdam meditators’ death stories and Tibetan understandings of the death process – which include ideas about consciousness and the mind-body connection that are very different to those of mainstream science. Unfolding in cinematic dialogue between scientific and Tibetan perspectives, the film unravels our certainties about life and death, and shows how differently death can be construed in different cultural contexts. In this encounter between worlds, the scientists' methods and views are challenged by a civilization where death has been a central preoccupation for centuries.

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