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Spiritual journey: ‘The Three Day Nun’ explores filmmaker’s Thai Buddhist heritage

A scene from “The Three Day Nun” by New Mexico-based filmmaker Lava Buckley. (Courtesy of Lava Buckley)

A trip to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, turned out to be beneficial for Lava Buckley for many reasons.

The original intent of the trip was to become one with her culture.

That happened, and more.

The New Mexico-based filmmaker was able to put together the film “The Three Day Nun.”

“To be honest, the film wasn’t planned at all,” Buckley says. “My mom is from there, and for centuries my family has either been monks or nuns at some point. I wanted to learn more about it and embrace that part of my background.”

“The Three Day Nun” follows Buckley, her mother and her aunt’s journey of becoming a Theravada Buddhist Nun for three days in Ubon Ratchathani.

Buckley says her mother and aunt talked the temple leaders into letting her film during her time there.

“I feel very honored to have that access, because it doesn’t happen,” Buckley says. “While I was in Thailand, I was exposed to the culture more. The whole time I was there, I kept the camera rolling as much as I could. It was really an honor.”

Buckley left Thailand with four hours of footage and didn’t know what the end result would be.

She felt some pressure to give the film an authentic voice.

“As I edited, I would watch the footage and ask for guidance on what I am supposed to say,” she says. “That’s how it came out. Through a lot of meditation, I came up with the dialogue. I did leave out a lot of stuff that is very personal. But it still resonates with an audience.”

The trip helped her feel closer to her family’s culture.

“The Three Day Nun” was filmed at a temple in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. (Courtesy of Lava Buckley)

“I’m a first-generation Asian American, and it was nice to go back and connect to my roots,” she says. “A lot of us are first and second generation, and when we reconnect to our culture, it’s interesting. I feel very fortunate that I have family continuing the culture I was raised around.”

Buckley’s been submitting the documentary short to Asian film festivals and getting a lot of accolades. She has yet to submit the film to a New Mexico film festival.

Buckley says the film is raising awareness about Thai culture.

“I wasn’t going to submit it to festivals, but my family wanted me to share it with more people and show what this temple does for people,” she says. “The film also shows what you can get spiritually from this experience.”

Buckley’s move to directing has been part of her evolution.

New Mexico filmmaker Lava Buckley (Courtesy of Lava Buckley)

She’s a veteran of the New Mexico film industry, having worked in the casting department for nearly 23 productions, as well as being a writer, director and producer.

She also is a production coordinator for Meow Wolf and will begin working on the projects in Las Vegas and Denver.

Buckley always knew the film industry was her calling.

“When I was in the fourth grade, I saw Audrey Hepburn on TV helping children,” she says. “My family and I had lived in a shelter, and I thought that if I went into the film industry I could help other children,” she says. “I try to help anyone that I can.”


SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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