by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC
Here is a refreshingly different kind of inspirational film. What makes it different, and what makes it succeed, is the irrepressible Frank Ferrante, who has a wonderful, down-to-earth personality, and not much in the way of a filter when it comes to expressing his thoughts and feelings.
Frank, at 54, overweight, suffering from Hepatitis C, on a myriad of pills for various conditions, seeks out the help of three employees of the Café Gratitude in San Francisco. Café Gratitude is an organic, vegan and raw food restaurant awash with positive affirmations and energy. This is not lost on Frank who, while seeking their help, offers some good-natured laughs and ribbing as the contrast between his own Italian- Brooklynese, rough-edged viewpoints and the new-aged perspectives of the three employees who become his coaches. In the course of 42 days, with the daily help of three Café Gratitude meals, affirmations, a 15 minute walk, and a gallon of water -- along with the occasional colonic (some great scenes about that!) and visits to a holistic health practitioner -- Frank sheds pounds, fatigue, all symptoms and traces of the Hepatitis C virus, along with resentment and long-held feelings of guilt and anger. We see his breakthroughs, we share in his tears, and we feel his triumphs. An uplifting, inspiring and enjoyable film.
I had concerns at the start of this film, as the players seemed stilted and the film came off initially as a kind of commercial. My fears however proved unfounded, and I find much to recommend this film.
“We’re coming into a very serious time; a depression that will be much worse than the 1930s. It’s all due to human greed.”
~ Swami Kriyananda
As a reviewer for Creations, I am privileged to see many excellent, impassioned films about serious issues facing our planet. At times, the images and revelations are overwhelming. As stated in the quote above, all seem to stem from human greed. But, as also stated in this film, “spend your life digging in the dirt, you start to think the world is a dirty place.” So it is with a welcome sigh of relief and hope that Finding Happiness comes across my screen. It is an uplifting and timely look at the possibilities held in the creation of smaller “cities of light” . . . likeminded individuals creating sustainable, integrated, spiritual and loving communities.
Swami Kriyananda, born J. Donald Walters, became a disciple of Parmahansa Yogananda (of, amongst other things, Autobiography of a Yogi fame). He determined to realize his guru’s dream of creating and providing the world an example of a harmonious living community.
In Finding Happiness we meet community members of all different ages, and hear firsthand how they handle child-rearing, schooling, business transactions, property ownership, supporting themselves and their families, death, and everyday life. Their words are inspirational and their actions divinely human. Theirs is a community in which beauty is important because “to be in the presence of beauty is always uplifting for consciousness.”
With God as the highest aspiration, meditation plays a huge role in daily life.
There are many pearls of wisdom interspersed within the story of the building of the Ananda Spiritual Community, the formation of similar communities in other parts of the state, and other countries. A brief look at the life story of Swami Kriyananda is given as well.
Swami Kriyananda’s music (he is a composer) underlies much of the film, and although simple in melody, there is, as featured resident David Eby states “something to it.” Mr. Eby’s arrangements are especially striking. There is also a beautifully filmed, interpretive type of pas de deux to one of the songs. I’m happy to recommend and although simple in melody, there is, as featured resident David Eby states “something to it.” Mr. Eby’s arrangements are especially striking. There is also a beautifully filmed, interpretive type of pas de deux to one of the songs. I’m happy to recommend this beautiful, joyous, and uplifting film.
SHIFT OF THE AGES
“The shift of the ages is a passage between cosmic seasons. A period of rapid transformation spanning the end of one cycle, and the beginning of another. The Maya call this the Great Change of Suns.”
So begins this ambitious yet gentle-paced film, which represents “the first official discourse to the world from the Mayan Council of Elders, intended to dispel misconceptions and replace them with the positive story about this incredible period of time for humanity.” The film centers around the story of Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj, also known as ‘Wandering Wolf’; a Mayan Elder, born in poverty, but chosen to help both his people and their message to regain authority during the time of the Change of Suns. In the course of his story we learn about the Mayan culture, their current state as a people, and their connections with all other indigenous peoples of the Americas. We learn about the true nature of their calendars, including the longcalendar which was recently the cause of much speculation (and misrepresentation) in the media. We learn of the opportunities, the messages and lessons attendant to this period. We are also presented with the story of the “appropriation” of Wandering Wolf’s staff of power by Valentin, an elder in Bolivia, and through this are reminded of human shortcomings and acts of ego, as well as its subjugation as Wandering Wolf and Valentin embrace and the staff is returned.
There is a simple, yet excellent graphic illustrating the shattering of the indigenous world by the arrival of Europeans, with the cracking forming the shape of the borders of the countries in the Americas. This was a literal shattering of a world with no such boundaries for the indigenous peoples.
The film succeeds in its mission, and more. Its pace is conducive to a gentle consideration of the messages of the Mayan and, ultimately, most all indigenous peoples of the Americas. I’m looking forward to watching this again.
Masako is the artist’s eponymous debut album, and a wonderful offering it is. It is interesting, as a music reviewer, to hear trends and genres in music develop and grow beyond the initial uniqueness of the sound. In the case of Masako, comparisons to George Winston and the Windham Hill crowd are understandable, yet she has “grown” that music to higher and deeper levels of expression. Her technical ability is unquestionably superb, but her musical vision and luminous, original compositions really soar. Classically trained since the age of four, and composing by the age of five in her native Japan, we are lucky to now have such a talent in our country, gracing our music scene. Her solo piano is joined at times by cello (Eugene Friesen, percussion (Jeff Haynes and Will Ackerman), violin (Charlie Bisharat), bass (Tony Levin), and other guest instruments and friends, always in tasteful balance to her stellar piano work. Truly exceptional in the world of contemporary piano, this offering is highly recommended.