|Index||9 reviews in total|
This is more a comment about a comment: The comment by "afriendofyoga" is full of weird projections onto this film. Almost every criticism "afriendofyoga" makes is tied up in his/her skewed assumptions about Kate Churchill's intentions. I saw "Enlighten Up!" yesterday -- Churchill clearly doesn't think she has any answers, the movie presents a wide variety of perspectives on the practice of yoga (some reverent, some practical, some skeptical), and the personal conflicts between Churchill and her "guinea pig" Nick Rosen are given a balanced and honest treatment. This isn't (and isn't meant to be) a conclusive statement about yoga, it's a snapshot of a personal experience. I found it more intriguing than the dozens of reverent beatific infomercials about the wonders of yoga.
The style of the documentary reminds me of Super Size Me, but this
comes at it with a more personal angle and the documentarian(?) clearly
is not an independent third party, but she is very open about her
appreciation for yoga and her initial wish to convert others.
From her mission to reality is where the film takes us and the journey is very insightful, even if it relies too much on the personal stories of others as opposed to providing some more purely factual background. It's through those personal meetings and interviews that you grasp the present-day reality of yoga as opposed to a vague abstract.
Based on how deeply affected the few IMDb reviewers (so far) were by this film, I'm starting to think I should raise my rank (currently 7). This film provides a very solid foundation in yoga with little if any bias and does so in a way that keeps your interest, and what more can you really ask for from a documentary on anything?
Yoga, which is a mind/body/spirit experience is practiced by millions. For the ones who truly take it to heart,it can be a liberating path to Nirvana (and we're not talking the late 1980's/early 1990's band here, folks). For others,it's probably a whole bunch of nothingness. Kate Churchill (the film's director/co-writer)is a long time follower of the path. She decides to choose somebody who probably wouldn't get much out of it,just to prove her point. She chooses Nick Rosen,a journalist,who decides to go along for the ride. What we get is a portrait of a man who seems to be more content with earthly delights, rather than the path to inner peace. Several visits to different practitioners of the various realms of Yoga result in interviews,with their individual take on the path (some seem to point out the physical aspects,while others offer their take on the mind/body/spirit triad of it all). The film seems to take a "road trip" approach from here (it was filmed in several parts of the country,including a trip to India to meet with several Yoga masters). As previously stated,the ones who truly take Yoga to heart,this film will be an illuminating view on a skeptic who is questioning it all. For others who view Yoga as a big bunch of bunk (as Rosen seems to contend),they need not bother. Not rated by the MPAA,this film serves up some rude language,but little more that would offend.
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At first glance this film has a relatively straightforward premise:
immerse an average American male in yoga and chronicle his
transformation or lack thereof. This viewer had high hopes that
something "enlightening" would result. Ultimately, the film fails to
"enlighten" in nearly every respect. Ironically, it is Nick's honest
appraisal of his experience and apparent rejection of yoga that is the
film's bright spot. Nearly everything else is frustratingly muddled and
Here are some of the more troubling aspects of the film:
First, for people unfamiliar with the prominent western teachers who are presented in this film, take what you see with a large "grain of salt." The manner in which the director has presented them is disturbing and disingenuous. In general, these people are serious, knowledgeable practitioners of yoga, the director portrays them as simple-minded, hyper-commercialized charlatans (although the ex-pro wrestler is probably presented accurately). It is not clear why the director has chosen to present these western teachers this way. Is she trying to undermine yoga as it is practiced in the West? If so, this can be done honestly without needing to resort to the artifice of creative editing.
Second, the film's presentation of the various yoga traditions is so muddled that it borders on misrepresentation. The uninitiated will not walk away from this film with a basic understanding of the yoga tradition and its major principles. "Non-yogi" viewers of this film, presumably had at least some open-minded curiosity about yoga and some desire to see what it is all about. Sadly, these people are likely to walk away with the impression that there is no need to look any further. I wonder if this was the director's intention.
Third, the director doesn't let Nick's experience unfold on its own. She repeatedly injects herself into the process in a way that is distracting. It seemed as if she had an agenda and was frustrated when Nick didn't do or think what she wanted. I was left wondering if she needed to have Nick's experience go a certain way so that she felt better about her own experience with yoga.
Finally, afriendofyoga's comment is spot on. If you want to "enlighten up," just go to a yoga class and skip this movie. If you want a basic overview of the yoga tradition, go to wikipedia. Ultimately, this stilted view of a westerner's brush with yoga is a poor substitute for a personal exploration. Check it out yourself!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If the practice of yoga or any activities relating to yoga, including
watching yoga movies, causes stress, anxiety, consternation or anger -
you're doing it wrong. I personally thought it was an intriguing movie.
To each his/her own though. Not sure I understand the very strong
emotional feelings that have resulted in personal attacks against the
director. A movie is just one person's perspective, nothing more,
I would not have seen this movie if it were another infomercial-type production about how great yoga is. I've seen, and enjoyed a lot of that, experience the benefits of a daily practice myself. I get it. I was fascinated to see another's perspective - an outsider looking in. I think the director's motivation to "convert" was flawed, but that is the beauty of this film. both director and cast had some self exploration that needed to be done. and It caused a break down in her as she realized the futility of that goal.
As to accusations that she defamed the biggest names in yoga. I really did not see that. She portrayed them as the humans they are- not gods, nor demigods - humans just like us struggling with self realization, just a little further along the way. I saw a beautiful, tragic, and sometimes insecure side to these instructors - facets we all have. The intro w/none of the instructors giving the same age for yoga was not about making them look dumb. It was a statement about its diverse origins - especially many of the western practices - not that no one knew the truth with a capital T. There is no right answer. Depends on what you are referring to when you say "yoga". On top of that, so much of Indian tradition is passed along by word of mouth family to family it is very difficult to really answer that question even for the "purest" yoga forms. That is the whole point of the movie - there is no one yoga with one history.
While Nick may not have been has enlightened as some of us like to think we are, it took guts to do what he did. He dove into this head first and was really willing to open himself up to possibilities. As a self proclaimed skeptic I was worried the movie might die on the vine if he were to quickly dismiss the practice, he did not.
Very thought provoking movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having people close in my life who don't fully understand what yoga is about (and are a little afraid to get involved in the culture) this movie is refreshingly neutral showing ALL sides of the physical, mental and emotions people may go through opening up to something new. It demystifies the practice and lowers the expectations of what people perceive as 'yoga can do no wrong' and ends the movie on the point: It's all about the perception of the individual human being. Just like the feedback it's received, it's a full circle. Watch with an open heart and just accept that people look at not only yoga, but everything with different opinions.
This is a truly awful, trashy documentary. Filmed in a conceited, MTV,
cynical manner. It is more like some junk "reality TV show" than a
Kate spends the first 45 mins of the film making each yoga practitioner look like a complete fraud / fool. She shows no respect for any Yoga that is not taught in India.... As though enlightenment is only available to those who travel to India and study with a particular guru.
Complete BS - Kate Churchill is a Yoga snob - Yoga is about opening your heart to yourself and all beings. Her snobbishness is irresponsible when covering such a beautiful subject.
There is magic here though, and it has NOTHING to do with the people BEHIND the camera. The magic is the interviews with the many and varied yogis, to be able to see these charismatic characters and feel humbled by there straight talking, no BS perspectives on life and happiness, was a true pleasure.
However, Kate spends too little time with these Yogis, and far too much time with the complete pratt she chose to be her guinea-pig. He too is ignorant and slots neatly into the MTV, pop-culture, self absorbed, smug category. He is absolutely, positively, the very last person on earth that I would wish to have drinks and conversation with. He gives these snide little looks to the camera as if to say "yea, I know all this Yoga stuff is bullshit really, I'm cool, I'm hip". When in fact he's just revealing his own school-yard / peer-approval seeking lameness. Grow. Some. Balls.
However, the film-maker's ignorance serves to frame the enlightenment of the Yogis beautifully... Their ignorance seems to provide the shadow while the Yogis provide the light... if you get my lingo :) A happy accident has happened unbeknown to Kate Churchill and I love it! Guerilla Yogis!!
You could edit this movie down to 30 minutes, giving the entire screen-time to the interviewed Yogis, and you would have a very rewarding experience.
The other 60 minutes are pure rot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Kate Churchill ends up with a non-story in her feature Enlighten Up! when her subject fails to experience the changes she had been expecting. Churchill might have taken Rosen directly to the impressive yoga potentates B.K.S. Iyengar in India, the reclusive Norman Allen in Hawaii (his advice to ease Rosen's way to spiritual ease is "F--k yourself"), and Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, a veritable lion of a guru whose ashtanga yoga method is practiced all over the world.The journalist's encounters too brief, too arranged with these men provide a glimpse of the possibility of true revelation. Sadly, Churchill gets miffed with Rosen's inability to receive yoga wisdom.And, apparently in the interests of providing the conflict element demanded in modern storytelling, the movie gets lost for a while as their relationship deteriorates.So, the director doesn't get the story she wanted and the viewer gets only a fleeting taste of several good yarns that she allowed to slip through her fingers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was looking forward to seeing Enlighten Up! The buzz has been
palpable and WOW a film about yoga which might enter the mainstream,
inform the zeitgeist, and acknowledge all of the hard work that yoga
teachers in places like New York and the West Coast have been doing to
promote yoga in the U.S. But then I saw an advance copy of Enlighten
Up! and although its trailers, advertising and press releases introduce
an interesting premise, it's sad and unfortunate how badly handled,
biased and back handed the film turns out to be.
Don't get me wrong, I'm generally seduced by films that are provocative and make me think about the world differently. The production values are polished and the locations are really great and occasionally beautiful in a colonizer's view of the world. But as I was watching I couldn't help but think (in addition to "couldn't I be spending my time in a yoga class instead of watching this?") that Kate Churchill, the director, really has an axe to grind.
We are led to believe that she has the key, the understanding of how to attain enlightenment, and she lays out the red herring of a thesis: take someone, preferably some cute, clueless-seeming 20-something guy and see what he does in the habitrail of this myopic film. Running at just under an hour and a half, coincidentally (or not?) about the length of a yoga class including savasana (aka final relaxation), Enlighten Up! introduces Nick Rosen as that clueless guy who "obviously" needs enlightenment.
The montage of yoga teachers introduced in the beginning is highly edited. It's obvious that sentences are misquoted, spliced and taken out of context to support the thrust of Ms. Churchill's supposed thesis. Contemporary Western yoga teachers are illustrated as mostly capitalists, an insidious assertion since it is their students who Ms. Churchill wants to exploit. Most of these yoga teachers are presented as fodder for laughter, as are many of their students, and the way it's done is nothing short of cringe-inducing.
Ms. Churchill essentially exploits all of these yoga teachers and teachings in the same way that she suggests teachers exploit un-enlightened students and presents herself as an ultimate expert. Nick's journey towards enlightenment is clearly secondary while Ms. Churchill self-indulgently chugs the film along, ending with the film maker and her artifice, illustrated in her unfortunate ending yoga pose. She talks a good talk, but she doesn't walk the walk or even headstand the headstand like when she falls out of a headstand "super-fakey like." It is clear she has aspirations of being Michael Moore via Roger and Me or Errol Morris in his acute investigations of subject matter but Ms. Churchill opts instead for cheap and easy á la "just another reality TV show," a ruse with all the real parts edited and all remaining pretense subjugated, exploited and marketed. There are no real "a-ha" moments outside of realizing you've been duped into watching an old episode of Amazing Race/Survivor/I Love New York/Project Runway with a bit of Single White Female and Fatal Attraction spliced in.
It's interesting how Whole Foods, the mainstream, high-end, food conglomerate, is a sponsor of the film, while those in film presented as enlightened live so simply and with little. Like any vacationer who travels to an exotic land, Kate Churchill wants the REAL experience under her auspices and still comes back to the comfort of her own enlightened lifestyle. Many of the teachers she initially tries to exploit give money in support of not-for-profit organizations in the US and elsewhere, have free and inexpensive yoga classes, work in partnership with schools, and so on. One wonders if any money Ms. Churchill generates from this film will go anywhere except into her own pockets? One eventually wonders who the real audience for the film really is: yoga practitioners, non-yoga practitioners, people on the fence about it, people who loathe it? It probably doe$n't even matter to her.
It really is unfortunate that the film couldn't have been a much better one. Ms. Churchill must have squandered some serious funding. One wishes the film was a more inclusive one, one where community and conversation could arise, one that supports the diversity of yoga communities; engendering "yoga" aka union or relationship. Instead Ms. Churchill illustrates the "one" and only way to access enlightenment, her way, not Nick's, not yours, not mine; along the way she demeans others' hard work, and others' own paths to enlightenment.
If you're curious about enlightenment, consider studying with nearly any of the great yoga teachers she tries to exploit, all of whom have lived longer, practiced longer and have a longer view than Kate Churchill's.
As a reviewer it would be unprofessional to call Kate Churchill a myopic control freak whose best intentions are undermined by her own self indulgence, desire for attention and motivation to make a quick buck. But as a yoga practitioner (moviegoer, citizen of the earth, etc) how could I not? Any truly unbiased documentary film maker should leave themself out of the film, without on-screen breakdowns by the director/narrator/producer (that means you Ms. Churchill), with no on-screen antagonizing of their subjects (also you Ms. Churchill) and for god's and goddess' sake if your subject wants to go on a date with someone he's met, he can, and your meddling to prevent his freedom or dictating how to do that says more about you than about him.
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