Greetings again from the darkness. We depend on documentaries to teach us things we don’t know, introduce us to interesting people, and take us places we will probably never visit. Co-directors Jillian Elizabeth and Neil Dalel accomplish all of these by taking us to south India and the jungle setting of Ashra Vidya Gurukaulam.
Filmed as far back as 2010, we go deep into an environment that would normally be off-limits to cameras. We follow students who have come to the ashram to learn from Swami Dayananda Saraswati and study the ancient wisdom of Advaita Vedanta.
The film alternates between following Dayananda and providing us a feel for the students and the overall life of quiet ritual, meditation and spirituality. The Swami is pretty fascinating as he constantly shares the wisdom, philosophy and insight that is not designed to raise funds, but rather to offer the process of discovering one’s self and life meaning.
Not only is this a different approach for a documentary … it’s very quiet (no narrator) and paced to mirror the movements from the ashram … but it is extraordinary to see the contrast versus our usual hectic daily lives in the Western world. A community of solitude may sound incongruent, but watching these folks find peace in their daily rituals while combining self-realization with supporting their neighbors, is something that must be witnessed to fully comprehend.
There are only a few shots that include cell phones or computers … another stark contrast to our daily lives of over-stimulation. Instead, the simplicity of the day and the tranquil setting permit a more open and uncluttered mind, heart and soul. This easily could have been a profile of Swami Dayananda, but the choice of the filmmakers to provide a more complete overview creates quite a unique viewing experience – one that quietly draws you towards introspection.
Opening New York on June 3rd & Los Angeles on June 10th.