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Project Happiness (2011)

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Happiness, I want more! From the alleys of Nigeria and the beaches of California to the mountains of India, ordinary young people lead us on an extraordinary journey to explore the nature ... See full summary »


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Title: Project Happiness (2011)

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Credited cast:
Nina Castanon ...
Richard Davidson ...
Emmanuel Ande Ivorgba ...
Yeshi Kando ...
Ward Sadanand Mailliard ...
Luke Sanders-Self ...
Prabha Sharan ...
Randy Taran ...
Kristen Van't Root ...


Happiness, I want more! From the alleys of Nigeria and the beaches of California to the mountains of India, ordinary young people lead us on an extraordinary journey to explore the nature of lasting happiness and end up starting a movement. Written by Anonymous

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1 May 2011 (USA)  »

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How far would you travel to find happiness?
20 April 2011 | by (Los Angeles, California) – See all my reviews

This documentary focuses on young people: their fears, sadness, and challenges that they face. The four teens from Santa Cruz, California, were easy for this viewer to identify with. Less easy were the teens selected from Nigeria and India. All the teens actually have a lot in common: each has to deal with difficult personal obstacles.

So . . . How are they going to find happiness?

Project Happiness brings these young people together and attempts to address the question. The teens visit George Lucas (the famous producer) in his home, where he talks about his happiness from having children. Though he has enormous wealth, his children the main thing. We also learn from Dr. Richard Davidson (a neuroscientist) that the brain changes itself over its life. A "happy brain" can therefore be made over enough time. The teens also visit Richard Gere (the famous actor), who discusses his path to happiness through his conversion to Buddhism, and meeting the Dalai Lama.

From this point, the teens then head off to India to see the Dalai Lama. They first spend some quality time together in Dharamsala, India. This is followed by a private meeting with the Dalai Lama. With great humor and candor, he tells them that there is not a single way to happiness; there are many unknowns. The teens are surprised that such a holy and learned person does not know everything. However, as the meeting ends they seem to have gotten enormous benefit from the discussion.

The teens then depart to their respective homes with a new perspective on the pursuit of happiness. They convey a more cheerful outlook on life to their family and friends. The notion of a new global movement to make everyone happy is born... Stay tuned!

I enjoyed this documentary. At only about one hour in length, it does not stay on any one person or subject for too long. I would not have minded if it described the teens' lives in more detail. They were all likable.

It was intriguing to see how similar the teens were. They enjoyed the same kinds of sports and humor. But are they really similar, living under vastly different circumstances? The middle class settings in Santa Cruz looked a million times more comfortable than the ones in Nigeria. One Nigerian girl spoke of barely having enough money for school. Another mentioned the recent death of her father. Such day-to-day concerns would be different for affluent California teens...

I question the idea of interviewing either George Lucas or Richard Gere about finding happiness. Yes, they are famous, but so what? They are not people I consider having the corner of the market on happiness. With that said, they both did well speaking about the subject. They were interesting. Also, I suppose if anyone knows whether material wealth could truly bring happiness, these two guys would!

Dr. Davidson, the neuroscientist, has studied the brain. Thus, he seems a good person to interview about happiness. But what is happiness? Can it be defined so easily? The good doctor seemed a little vague. Maybe he is not used to giving interviews? I would have liked to hear him explain about "what happiness is", or "why it is good", or whether there is something different in our brain when we are in that particular state called "happy".

The Dalai Lama was clearly the ideal person for an interview. If nothing else, he presented a comfortable and thoughtful approach to answering this question, as he would no doubt to any question put forth. He was funny and insightful. He easily admitted that he does not know everything, and encouraged an open discussion. I think the young visitors were expecting the Dalai Lama to be some great and powerful force, talking down to them, but instead he was humble and humorous. You cannot help but like him.

The Dalai Lama did make points which were mentioned throughout the documentary. In no particular order, these are: Happiness is a choice that we have, and it is something we can cultivate. Thus, it is already inside us, and we do not need to get it from "out there". Money and gifts are great things, but the joys from them are only temporary. Lasting happiness is not sustained by getting bigger and better gifts. There is not one way to find happiness; there are many ways. A big point here is compassion for others. When we make others happy, that feeling always comes back to us. If each morning when we wake, we try to figure out a way to help someone else (rather than being only focused on our own immediate needs) then the world would be a happy place for everyone.

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