Alive Mind Cinema Festival


 

Faith Connections

CRITIC’S PICK – Village Voice

"A personal, yet profoundly universal, cinematic essay that interweaves five disparate tales into a meditative, entertaining and provocative tapestry." - Saibal Chatterjee, BBC

 


Filmmaker Pan Nalin (Valley of Flowers, Samsara) travels to the Kumbh Mela, the largest religious convergence in the world on the bank of the Ganges. There, he encounters remarkable men of mind and meditation, many contemplating an inextricable dilemma: to embrace the world or to renounce it?  Faith Connections brings to life the personal stories behind a scrappy young runaway boy, a mother desperately looking for her stolen son, and a yogi who is raising an abandoned baby, along with a Sadhu and an ascetic who keeps his calm by smoking cannabis. These stories are framed against a background of a million pilgrims and their spectacular display of devotion.

 


 ABOUT KUMBH MELA


Kumbh Mela is one of the most extraordinary displays of faith on Earth: a spectacular journey drawing tens of millions of people, taking place once every twelve years.  One such year is 2013.

This Hindu pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at the Triveni Sangama. In Hindu tradition Triveni Sangama is the “confluence” of three rivers. Sangama is the Sanskrit word for confluence. The point of confluence is a sacred place for Hindus. A bath here is said to wash away all of one’s sins and free one from the cycle of rebirth.

Kumbh means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Hindi. It is also believed in Hindu mythology — drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh carried by gods after the sea was churned. The festival is billed as the “biggest gathering on Earth.” An estimated four to five million pilgrims bathe on the most auspicious day. The total number of pilgrims for the entire duration of the fair is considered to be between 90 to 100 million.

Free The Mind

FREE THE MIND follows neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson as he conducts an unusual experiment. Following the practices of Buddhist monks and the advice of his friend the Dalai Lama, Dr. Davidson utilizes meditation and yoga in an attempt to physically alter the brains of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To see how early in life these practices can take effect Dr. Davidson broadens the study to include children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Focusing on participants such as Steve, an ex-interrogator, and Rich, who led battalions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the film documents the promising effects of Dr. Davidson's non-medicinal methods of treating pain and anxiety, leading to relaxation and happiness. FREE THE MIND asks the question: Can you rewire the brain just by taking a breath?

Breath Of The Gods

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In BREATH OF THE GODS, director Jan Schmidt-Garre goes in search of the origins of Modern Yoga, which is practiced by tens of millions of people throughout the world, and originated in the early 20th century through the teachings of Indian savant T. Krishnamacharya.


The film features major names of Yoga including Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar. Jan Schmidt-Garre investigates the transformation of Yoga from its introduction to Western culture in the 19th century, when the practice was met with skepticism, to its widespread acceptance gained through Krishnamacharya's teaching. While Yoga today is a billion-dollar industry with many devotees, this film presents the history of an ancient, sacred tradition with roots going back to the god Shiva.

For anybody curious about the roots of Modern Yoga as practiced today, this film provides an in-depth history, placing the practice of yoga in a spiritual context, the practice of which can lead to union with the cosmic Self.

When The Iron Bird Flies

'When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the face of the earth.' - Guru Padmasambhava of Tibet, 8th century

In 1959, the Chinese invasion of Tibet threw open the doors to the mysterious realm of Tibetan Buddhism. Suddenly, this ancient tradition was thrust out of it's cloistered society into the mainstream of western culture. Fifty years later, Tibetan Buddhist teachers trained in practices nurtured in monastaries and caves in the Himalayas are jetting around the world, presenting the words of the Buddha to rooms full of international lay practitioners who are hungry for a true spiritual path.

When the Iron Bird Flies traces the astounding path of one of the world’s great spiritual traditions from the caves of Tibet to the mainstream of western culture and asks: In these increasingly chaotic modern times, can these age old teachings help us find genuine happiness and create a saner, more compassionate 21st century world?

"A vivid and engaging account of the movement of the Buddha Dharma... Viewers hearts will have been opened and perhaps melted by the uplifting gift of genuine spirituality as it folows from teacher to student in a pattern free of time, showing us the way to go beyond the suffering and upheavals of our days and years." - Light of Consciousness

Crazy Wisdom

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Buddhism permeates popular culture worldwide - we speak casually of good parking karma, Samsara is a perfume, and Nirvana is a rock band.  A recent survey by Germany's Der Spiegel revealed that Germans like the Dalai Lama more than their native-born Pope Benedict XVI; the biggest Buddhist monastery outside of Asia is in France, and Tibetan Buddhism is doubling its numbers faster than any other religion in Australia and the U.S.A.  How did this happen?

Crazy Wisdom explores this through the story of Chogyam Trungpa, the brilliant "bad boy of Buddhism," who was pivotal in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West.  Trungpa shattered our preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave.  Born in Tibet, recognized as an exceptional reincarnate lama and trained in the rigorous monastic tradition, Trungpa fled his homeland during the Chinese Communist invasion.  In Britain, realizing a cultural gap prevented his students from any deep understanding of Buddhism, he renounced his vows, eloped with a sixteen year-old, and lived as a westerner.  In the U.S., he openly drank alcohol and had intimate relations with students. Was this crazy wisdom?

With unprecedented access to Trungpa's inner circle and exclusive never-before-seen archival material, Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him, and attempts to set the record straight.

Yangsi

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An intimate portrait of a young Tibetan boy who is recognized as the reincarnation of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of the most revered Tibetan Buddhist masters of the twentieth century. He is known as The Yangsi, ‘the one who has come again into existence’.
Providing a unique window into the world of Tibetan Buddhism, this film is a coming of age story with universal themes, made over a fourteen year period by Mark Elliott, an acclaimed film maker and longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism.

Narrated by Yangsi Rinpoche, the young teacher gives a first person account of his experience of growing up in, and coming to terms with, his unique inheritance. Beginning with his enthronement at age four before a crowd of fifteen thousand people in Kathmandu, Nepal, he is placed in the care of the previous Khyentse Rinpoche’s regent, Rabjam Rinpoche at Shechen monastery. With unprecedented access, the film chronicles his life during his training in Tibetan philosophy and various rituals, along with learning English, intimate family visits, and meetings with masters within (and without) of his lineage.

Filmed largely in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan and in Nepal, Yangsi presents everyday events in a reincarnation’s life, where a mother’s love plays as important a role as high tantric empowerments; where tradition is challenged by modernity; and where human relationships are as vital as study. And where doubt challenges devotion when having to live up to great expectations.

“Yangsi’ follows this process up to the age of eighteen, when he for the first time assumes the role of the teacher, embarking on a world tour to continue the work of his predecessor, to be of service to sentient beings. Perhaps never before has this process been so openly and engagingly portrayed, sharing Yangsi’s aim of how Buddhism can be relevant in the modern world.

 



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