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What Makes a Movie "Spiritual?"

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For many years now Chameli and I have enjoyed a special moment in our month, when an envelope arrives containing a single DVD. It generally contains a feature film, a documentary, and occasionally a few shorts, chosen not for their popularity or celebrity status, but for their ability to transform and awaken us. The Spiritual Cinema Circle was founded in 2004 by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks, Arielle Ford and Stephen Simon. It is something like Netflix meets Esalen.

I have had some interesting talks over the last years with Gay and Kathlyn, and more recently also with Stephen Simon about what it is that makes a movie "spiritual." I am delighted to tell you, there are no absolute conclusions. As you may know from the Translucent Revolution (which of course you have read cover to cover, right?!) my favorite all time translucent movie was Alan Ball's American Beauty, which won five Oscars in 2000. You can read (or re-read) my critique of that film in the blog below this one.

American Beauty
is not a feel-good, love and peace, happily ever after film. The protagonist, played by Kevin Spacey, is murdered at the end of the film by a semi-psychotic ex-marine. This is a film portraying dysfunction, alienation, and a pervasive degree of hopelessness. Yet...there is something about this film, and many like it, that transforms not the content of our experience, but our relationship to our experience. It does not change our experience from feeling bad to feeling good, but instead manages to shift us to a deeper dimension of ourselves, and of reality. The sub title of the film is "look closer." Other examples of this kind of art, different in content, but widely appreciated as translucent in vision, are Shakespeare's Hamlet, Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful and Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies.

Of course my view is not the only view on what makes cinema "spiritual." Another view, equally valid, is that we are all already too steeped in darkness, and what we need is more light, more healing and more "good vibes."

I want to hear from you on this topic. Post me a comment below.

What is your list on the five most "spiritual" or "translucent" films you have ever seen?

Then please come listen to the re-play of the tele-seminar with myself and Stephen Simon, the founder of the Spiritual Cinema Circle, the producer of 20 movies, and the director of "Indigo" and "Conversations with God." On this call you will hear Stephen and myself each share our list of the five most "spiritual films," ( our lists are totally different, by the way!).

If you'd like to try out the Spiritual Cinema Circle, they have offered my friends (that's you!) a free trial membership. To check it out simply register for the re-play here and you will see their logo on the play page.

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American Beauty (1999)

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