When I first experienced … this movie at the Gothenburg Film Festival 1994, I was truly amazed. Never before – or since – have I had such an over-all, explain-it-all feeling after a show. Ron Fricke has made a documentary about the World today for a day, starting at dawn with monkeys in hot springs in Japan, and the morning rituals of various religions. This is followed by the awakening of the human race, both in the big cities and in the country side. Brilliantly edited, the film follows every aspect of human daily life combined with the general changes of the planet itself and all the ecological systems upon it. The over-all glue of the story are the various religious rituals. The only time giver, except for the turning of the sun, are the praying times and times of worship … around the globe. The Gaia idea (that the Earth is a whole being, a unit, a living organism) is detectable in the film, both in the way all the different cultures shown are found to be very similar to one another, and in the way the speeded-up people at side walks and zebra crossings look very much like the stream of blood in the veins of an organism.
Source: jcnteach from Gothenburg, Sweden
Umberto D, produced in Italy in 1952, is often cited as the last film produced in the post-war Italian neo-realist style. Shot on a very small scale, with a tiny rostrum of mostly unnamed characters (man in hospital, landlady, sister, voice of light), it’s the sad but ever-hopeful story of a destitute retiree whose only claim in this world is his dog, Flick.
Director Vittoria de Sica (who directed The Bicycle Thief) has crafted something akin to a “found film” in that the actors are almost exclusively amateurs, the sets whatever was available on the streets of Roma, with large portions of the story dedicated to simply observing the daily routines of the characters who inhabit this film.
This powerful narrative has universal application, regardless of period or cultural setting. The loneliness of the aged and their marginalisation in society is still a problem in affluent industrial countries, regardless of social welfare and political paternalism. Perhaps this is a mechanism of Nature, although the film certainly seems to place the blame for Umberto’s plight on the Italian government.
Umberto is a man who is determined to lead the last few years of his life with dignity, but who is assailed by a society that, if not hostile, is at best, uncaring. While Umberto scrambles to find a way to avoid being evicted from his one-room suite, we observe how difficult it is for a man in such a trying situation to retain dignity and hope.
For long stretches of the film we simply observe people walking down streets, playing in parks, working in the kitchen, and witness how they sometimes can be ground down by life. Umberto is no exception, as everything in his life has been, as we might say in modern parlance, “downsized”. He appears to have neither friends nor family, neither work nor money, and soon he will no longer have a home. Consequently, it makes perverse sense that even his name is downsized; he is no longer Umberto Domenico Ferrari, but simply Umberto D.
There are a number of notable scenes, including the scene at the Animal Pound when Umberto recovers Flick and saves the hapless mongrel from certain death, and the stunning attempted suicide at the climax. In a final attempt at solving his dilemma, Umberto tries to give Flick away to a little girl who is playing in the park but her young, vital parents intervene, refusing the offer. Umberto tries to walk away, crosses a bridge; but Flick follows, finds him by the tracks, jumps into his arms. The train whistle howls, the express blows past as man and dog are bisected in shadow and light, as if framed in transition between this world and the next. It’s a brilliantly conceived and executed piece of film, one of the greatest sequences ever, anywhere.
The dog escapes and Umberto totters back over the footbridge into the park where he finds Flick hiding behind a tree, suspicious of his master’s intentions. But Umberto lures the dog out with a familiar routine and the film ends with the man and his dog gambolling into the distance as if happily reconciled to each other and their very uncertain fate.
Umberto D courageously and magnificently champions the life of an apparently insignificant man in a difficult time.
Jnanandeva, a film made in India (date unknown), is highly recommended for viewing because of its powerful message and positive vibrations.
Having been ousted by the Brahmin community, the child Jnanadeva’s parents took their own lives, leaving him and his two young siblings to fend for themselves. Drawing courage and spiritual conviction from his older brother, Shri Jnanadeva sets out to win the right to a reprieve from the stigma which now prevents them from completing their Brahminic initiation ceremony.
Despite living as an outcaste, he wins the admiration of the masses through his understanding of the Gita and many miracles, eventually obtaining the recognition of the Brahmin community.
This movie beautifully portrays the power of innocent wisdom pitted against dogma and fanatacism, and is full of vibrations.
On 14 October 2006 the opening premiere of the movie about the life and work of Shri Mataji, “Freedom and Liberation”, took place in the ARRI movie theatre in Munich. Munich is an important film production point in Germany, and hosts more companies producing technical film equipment than Hollywood.
Carolin Dassel, the writer and director of the movie, has worked relentlessly for the last two years to realize this incredible piece of work, based on the idea of Philip Zeiss. Carolin started the first shooting in September 2003 in Cabella with her film crew. This included a two-hour interview with Shri Mataji and her husband, Sir CP Srivastava, in the Palazzo Doria Castle. It was literally the last public interview that Shri Mataji gave. Then Carolin and her team shot for several weeks in India in Ganapatipule, Pune, Delhi, the Sahaja Yoga health centre in Vashi, and many more places. Interviews with Shri Mataji’s daughters, Kalpana and Sadana, give us a very personal glimpse of the family life of Shri Mataji.
The film was produced on state-of-the-art professional standard (Super 16mm) film to ensure maximum quality, with some inserts shot in Super8 black and white. The film also includes some original footage of Shri Mataji’s talks on video.
Together with Sepp Reidinger, head of several technical departments at ARRI Munich, the production company, DEVI-Film, was set up at the beginning of production. Funding for the film came from the Film and TV Fund of Bavaria, the public TV program, Bayerischer Rundfunk, and the Munich Film Academy where Carolin graduated with this film.
With the support of Sepp Reidinger, the film premiere was held in the prestigious ARRI cinema in the heart of Munich. An audience of about three hundred people waited eagerly for the movie to start. The audience greatly enjoyed the film, and some were deeply touched.
After the screening Thomas Menge, who hosted the event, introduced Carolin who called the crew and some of the interviewed people on stage. After that, Thomas led a small program for the remaining audience of about one hundred people who had the chance to get their self-realisation. Many of them actually felt the cool breeze.
The official TV screening was held on 22 October 2006 on Bayerischer Rundfunk, the third program of Public German Television.
More information is available on the official website (for the time being in German), www.nirmaladevi-film.de.