by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC
The Nature of Existence is the latest film which tackles the issues of conflicts and similarities amongst belief systems around the world. Born out of filmmaker Roger Nygard’s reaction to the events of September 11, Mr. Nygard’s film finds him traveling around the United States, and eventually to England, China, India, Israel, Ireland and Italy, seeking out and interviewing religious figures, the common man, and those in-between, asking a slew of questions such as “do we have free will?” “is there a God?” “why are we here?” etc. What makes or breaks a film like this is the pace, the editing, and the selection of interviewees. On all three counts, ‘The Nature of Existence’ wins. It is a fast-paced film which succeeds in presenting a very diverse cross-section of cultures, ideas, opinions and beliefs – as much as a 94 minute film possibly can. Answers are presented with out bias, and the viewer might be surprised by which figures he/she finds agreement with. There is humor here, and there are philosophical gems as well. An enjoyable and thoughtful film.
The Little Soul and the Sun
A film for children with a message can be a tricky thing, as the tone of such a film can easily become preachy or condescending or simply self-conscious in its attempt to ‘reach’ children on what is understood to be their level. The Little Soul and the Sun comes close, but never crosses these lines.
It is enjoyable to watch the mother interact with her son. At one point, when he is having trouble with a simple chore because he’s thinking of an encounter with a bully, his mother suggests ‘when your mind is busy hating something, everything is harder.’ This film, like the book upon which it was based, may hold just as much if not more of a message for adults than children. The story takes on the question of why people do bad things, and offers a different perspective on the matter which reconciles both good and bad actions under the love of God. Fundamentalists of most religions will have a problem with this, as will most conservative Christians. For the rest of us, the story offers a refreshing possibility outside the ‘divine retribution’ and ‘work of the devil’ paradigms.
The DVD includes a follow-up discussion by Neale Donald Walsh. The basic thought here is that “nobody does anything inappropriate given their model of the world.” There is something for all ages in this offering.
Jazz is not one of the genres of music I generally seek out to listen to. Sky Jazz might change that. It is definitely melodic, relaxing and calming, yet playful, upbeat and joyful. It is also always interesting without being so much ‘in the head.’ I would love to have a gathering against the backdrop of this special offering. Mr. Shulman has composed all of the selections with the intention, as stated in the liner notes, to create a soothing, inspiring, healing and relaxing album. He has definitely succeeded!
9 Muses takes classical jazz, pop, new age and ‘world’ influences, combines them with spiritually-conscious lyrics, and comes up with a winning album. A smooth, clear female vocal greets us on the notable opening ‘Cool Water,’ and is in evidence throughout the whole album, as is an extremely pleasing rhythmic component – probably the signature element of this offering. Cuts wander from sensual jazz to simple ballad, upbeat numbers, and even a tango (‘The Man that Never Was’). The haunting ‘Just to Dance with You’ is especially beautiful. While the spiritual component is quite evident in most all of the songs (“Life is what you make of it . . . if only you master your mind” – from the song ‘Mastermind’), it is never heavyhanded, preachy, or overshadowing of the musical component of the song.