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Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard (2006)

In his first public interview in more than a decade, pop culture icon of the 1970s and 80s, Werner Erhard breaks his long silence about his ideas, his life and his controversial program "... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Warren Bennis ...
Himself - est Graduate (archive footage)
Himself - est Graduate (archive footage)
Joe DiMaggio ...
est Trainer (archive footage)
Anita Erhard ...
Werner Erhard ...
Claudette Faison ...
R. Buckminster Fuller ...
Himself (archive footage)
Gary Grace ...
Herself - Emmy Awards (archive footage)
Michael Jensen ...
Mark Kamin ...
Don Lattin ...
Martin Leaf ...
George Leonard ...
Himself - Co-Leader of Esalen


In his first public interview in more than a decade, pop culture icon of the 1970s and 80s, Werner Erhard breaks his long silence about his ideas, his life and his controversial program "est"that became "the thing" to do among celebrities and middle America and fueled today's multi-billion dollar personal growth industry. With exclusive and rare footage, you'll step inside controversial est seminars, hear provocative interviews with participants, family members, and experts. Viewers will be very surprised to learn how Erhard's transformational ideas are still in the mainstream today-in our language, advertising campaigns and in personal growth seminars yet few people know its origin. Written by Robyn Symon

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"Pop culture icon and the founder of est pulls back the curtain on his life, his ideas and what forced him to leave the country." See more »



Official Sites:



Release Date:

27 April 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Трансформация: Жизнь и наследие Вернера Эрхарда  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$25,460 (USA) (27 July 2007)


$25,460 (USA) (27 July 2007)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


(NTSC Color)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Werner Erhard: The truth believed is a lie.
See more »


References 60 Minutes: Werner Erhard (1991) See more »

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User Reviews

Robyn Symon's film is the best thing ever done on Werner
21 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

One of the many remarkable aspects of Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard is its unbiased approach. It pulls no punches. It hides no skeletons. It opens all closets and allows you free access with almost voyeuristic freedom and intensity to Werner's private, personal, and family life. It also has extensive coverage of Werner's work over the last thirty six years from the est training to his ideas which are the basis for the Landmark Forum. It features many figures who have worked with Werner over the years, celebrities who have participated in his work, and titans from established academia and the blue chip business world who have incorporated Werner's ideas into their methodologies with enormous yet unheralded impact.

But the microscope here, the scrutiny of the project, is on Werner Erhard himself. And a question I asked myself as I watched is this: Will it work? Will it create an open, evenhanded forum in which Werner's magnum opus and its current form such as it exists in the world today, can be evaluated? Or will this approach backfire and fry its subject, like an ant caught by a child unceremoniously in the sun's intensity focused through a magnifying glass? It's an approach which takes brass and boldness, and could quickly devolve into a total fiasco. This isn't a feel good hymn to a man who has in transformation created, some say, the most powerful experience of their lives, and for others is nothing less than a slick snake oil salestype charlatan who's simply in it for the money. This is documentary film making at it's best. The depths it probes of simple human foibles as well as sheer heroism are arduous to take in at times. Two mantras meandered through my mind as I watched, not knowing what to expect next, fascinated. The first was: "He who is without sin cast the first stone". The second was: "There but for the grace of God go I". It's riveting viewing which is sure to be as controversial as it is brilliant.

The fire is held unflinchingly to the soles of Werner Erhard's life and work. The unspoken questions the movie poses are quite clear. Is what was said about Werner Erhard on 60 Minutes true? If not, why wasn't it ever fully recanted? Why did Werner Erhard leave the USA? What's he up to these days? And, arguably the most poignant question, what's the validity of Werner Erhard's work and legacy today and for the future if even some small fraction of what's been said about him in the full frontal attack were true? There's an interesting moment in the film when a noted San Francisco Chronicle reporter confesses to and addresses what we all know: the media delights in making heroes, and then delights equally in crucifying them. Open season. No hunting license required.

What's also interesting is how the film poses questions without fully answering them. This is not an oversight. It's deliberate. You're left with no choice but to come to your own conclusions based on coverage of Werner's work bringing the possibility of transformation to the religious deadlocked conflicts in northern Ireland and the Middle East, to Madison Avenue advertising, to mainstream business, and to the political arena. Werner's work is now, as he promised when he started it in 1971, melded and merged with where we come from in our thinking and principles today in these key areas of life. While no attempt is made by the producer to credit Werner with this enormous impact, Robyn Symon leaves you making up your own mind whether or not this legacy is authentic. You're left to decide for yourself whether or not what's been absorbed by colleges, business schools, and corporate management teams et al are indeed the results of ideas derived by Werner and made available through his seminars. No claim is made by Werner that this is true. And yet clearly the odds against it not being true are extremely high. Mainstream technology and terminology like this doesn't simply arise by coincidence or by accident. One hundred monkeys bouncing around on one hundred typewriters for thirty six years will not write Macbeth.

It would have been too easy for the producer to find people who would only say great things about Werner Erhard. But to her credit, Robyn Symon gives free rein and total access to some of Werner's harshest critics. This, I thought, is the mettle of Robyn Symon. Committed as she is to a true documentary, she doesn't simply provide one side of the story. Far from it. It's oddly difficult to watch the hospitality and grace with which she gives a platform to those who would totally negate Werner's contribution to humanity. You watch, fascinated, as his harshest critics get to speak, are never interrupted, are well lit, and are shown in their best possible light - a favor they themselves have denied Werner on so many occasions. Again, you're left to make up your own mind.

Essentially what Robyn Symon presents us with, over and over and over, is the humanity of Werner Erhard, and you get to decide: Are the foibles of his life simply the results of a colossal ego run amok? Or are they the results of carefully made priorities and choices when, given the limit of twenty four hours only in every day, we each have to choose what our lives will be about? In watching Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard, you get to be with Werner and to stand with him intimately in soul baring nakedness as he speaks candidly about his choices, his failures, and his successes. The truth isn't always palatable - not Werner's, not yours, not mine. Especially not mine. Yet in the space of Werner's bone numbing heroic honesty, transformation comes. It moved me to tears.

See this film. And bring your friends.

Ten stars.


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