For whatever reason, I never gave much thought to the how and why humans exist. If anything, I always thought I was an accident since my two brothers were eleven and eight years older than me. The big joke I used to tell my friends in defense of my thinking was saying, after having to deal with my graffiti spraying, story telling brothers; my mother waited eight years and decided she wanted to continue the madness by having me. I know each religion has their own definition on the nature of existence. Some believe in the ashes to ashes, dust to dust way of thinking; others believe in reincarnation. I only know there is no right answer or wrong answer. In this documentary, director Roger Nygard (Trekkies, Suckers) traveled the globe interviewing religious leaders, spiritual figureheads, scholars, artists and scientists among others, to seek out answers to some of life’s profound questions. Before you think this documentary sounds heavy and ponderous, let me tell you it was nothing like it. Roger handled the scenes with a light, humorous spin; keeping the story moving forward. Maybe an easier way of describing this documentary would be to say some of you should think of it as the CliffsNotes for religion; to others it can be thought of as Religion for Dummies book. Personally, I found this an interesting film. My curiosity with other cultures was piqued by the different locales and variety of interviewees. Can I say I found the answers to the meaning of life, to my existence from this movie? The answer would be no; however, I did gain a deeper understanding of people’s beliefs and reaffirm my own belief that there is no such thing as a right or wrong religion.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
I have had the good fortune to be in the presence of charitable individuals throughout my life. Their warmth and kindness spread out to embrace me, like a soft cozy blanket; it truly was a wonderful feeling. My yoga teacher was one such individual. His patience and sweetness were always a comfort as he guided me through our lessons. I credit him for my ability to stay a calm driver, no matter how trite that may sound. My fascination with these giving people has always included their history, the steps they took to become who they are today. In this moving documentary, I was introduced to a selfless man who left a profound effect on everyone he encountered. The story was about the life of Father Mychal Judge. What I especially appreciated was his life story, his determination to go beyond doctrine and do what he felt was the right thing to do–give comfort to anyone and everyone. In my classes I avoid discussions about religion. To me, there are no better or worse religions; everyone has the right to believe what they want without pushing it on someone else. Father Mychal was a New York fire department chaplain. When the twin towers were attacked, he did what he had always done before; suit up and immediately go to the aid of those affected, to comfort them. Listening to the love and admiration throughout the movie for Father Mychal, I only wish I could have met this amazing man. One thing I especially admired was how the filmmakers did not shy away from showing the personal side of Father Mychal. For example, he was a strong advocate of AA; since he himself was a recovering alcoholic. I do not know how such extraordinary humans reach that state of mind to be all giving and accepting. But what I do know is how I was humbled after watching the life of this loving man.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
A monumental love story with a rich historical pedigree, this extravagant movie covered a lot of ground–literally. As I was watching this film, my mind flashed with images of past conflicts that have taken place around the world. A common factor I found present was the clashing of two distinct religions. Each side tried imposing their culture on the opposing force. I do not understand the reasoning behind some religions sending out members in an attempt to convert individuals. Where does this mentality of “my religion is better than yours” come from? Set in the 16th century, the Mughal ruler Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar, played by Hrithik Roshan (Luck by Chance, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) formed an alliance with an opposing kingdom by agreeing to marry that ruler’s daughter. This was a radical idea due to the fact Akbar was Muslim and the princess was HIndu. Besides family members having their doubts, ministers of each court were leery of such an arrangement. How could Akbar make this marriage work with the strong willed Princess Jodhaa Bai, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Bride & Prejudice, Endhiran)? The first 30 minutes of this saga was hard for me to get into; I could not figure out what was going on. But trust me, it will be worth your wait as the story came alive when the focus turned to Akbar. I discovered if I watched this movie with my western sensibilities, it came across as this over the top, melodramatic soap opera. With soaring music that would sweep into the scene, people breaking out into song and a cast of thousands filmed for maximum exposure; this was a big Bollywood production. Granted the fight scenes were a bit hokey, especially with the one to one combatants, where one could see punches missing their intended targets. In spite of the technical deficiencies; the movie bloomed with beautifully colored scenes and told a story about respectfulness, tolerance and one of the greatest loves in history. Brief scene with blood. Hindi/Urdu with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD