Documentaries have always been big business for film festivals and independent movie theaters, but rarely have they had such a presence on DVD lately as they have from documramafilms. In the past couple months alone they’ve pounded out several award winning documentaries that had previously only been seen by a few in local theaters and, very rarely, on television/PBS airings. Now, docuramafilms is bringing to DVD the Kate Churchill documentary Enlighten Up!. The film focuses on the exciting world of…yoga? Yes, while the film has its critics (many of them yoga practitioners), it has still drawn quite a bit of attention due to its polarizing depictions of the various yoga cultures.
Filmmaker Kate Churchill is determined to prove that yoga can transform anyone. Nick Rosen is skeptical but agrees to be her guinea pig. Kate immerses Nick in the practice and follows him around the world as he examines the good, the bad and the ugly of yoga. The two encounter celebrity yogis, true believers, kooks and world-renowned gurus. Tensions run high as Nick’s transformational progress lags and Kate’s plan crumbles. Ultimately, what they find is not what they are looking for.
I’d been 5-0 in terms of documentaries I’d watched from docuramafilms that I wholeheartedly enjoyed. I figured as odd a concept a documentary about yoga was, I would jump in head first because the company had yet to steer me wrong. Well…now I’m 5-1, as this was one of the most wholly disjointed, biased, and bewildering documentaries I’ve seen lately. While other documentaries you watch normally remain unbiased and without an agenda, Churchill’s attempt with Enlighten Up! quickly turns on the US Yoga industry (if there is such a thing) and then confuses the viewer with a multitude of various views on yoga. There’s no clear cut answer to any of the questions brought up in this documentary and in the end I had wondered why I had just wasted eighty two minutes on seemingly nothing.
The main problem with the documentary is that Churchill seems to have graduated from the Michael Moore academy of documentary making. While it starts out as a lighthearted and seemingly unbiased romp, it quickly devolves into something a lot more skewed. I also question if some of it wasn’t purely acted, as the amount of times that Churchill interjects into Nick’s experiences and thoughts is very questionable. The documentary had some potential in the beginning, as it set up the US Yoga teachings as a skewed and “wrong” view of the art. Unfortunately it then shows off a dozen other viewpoints on yoga, so clearly there is no one, single consensus on the matter.
It’s a shame the film is so disjointed because it does have a “carefree” attitude about it for the most part, which creates a light and fairly innocuous mood for most of the film. But once you start delving into the various situations and areas around the world that they visit, the point of the film gets lost in the antics and discussions on screen. It’s clear Churchill had an idea for the documentary when setting out…but the reality of it all likely got lost in the revelations about the lack of coherency between various yoga teachings. Thus we ended up with a skewed and haphazard mess. At least that’s what I’m postulating; who knows, maybe she did originally intend to make a documentary with no clear point.
Overall this is a documentary you can have fun Renting, but that’s about it. It’s light mood helps what little there is here to seem worthwhile, but overall it’s not something that will stick with you. Whereas other docuramafilm releases have been worth a repeat viewing or two, you’ll barely make it through the first one for this one. It’s not necessarily a bad documentary…but documentaries aren’t quite as flexible as regular films, so if the overall concept doesn’t work then it’s just a disappointing product overall.
docuramafilms brings Enlighten Up! to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and nothing to really pop out at you, although the guy on the cover kind of looks like Eddie Vedder. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and the documentary style lends itself well in the basic transfer, with solid visuals throughout and a fair audio track. Most of the documentary is just chatter from the various people interviewed and it’s all presented clean and clear in the center channels.
Extended interviews with B.K.S. Iyengar, Gurusharanananda and Norman Allen
Photo Montage of Northern India
In all there’s over fifty minutes of extras to watch…but I doubt you’ll find any of them worth your time. Although the interviews themselves are worth a viewing if you’re interested in the various yoga philosophies.
Enlighten Up! arrives on DVD on November 10th.