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|8:30PM||Live Music by Doe Paoro|
|11:30PM-1:00AM||After-party at Fontana’s (105 Eldridge St. @ Grand) with complimentary drinks|
Kumaré (Vikram Gandhi | USA | 84 min.)
In 2010, Indian-American filmmaker Virkam Gandhi went to Phoenix and invented a spiritual workshop from scratch. That's the premise of Kumaré, a documentary that Gandhi assembled out of his experience, in which he created a fake spiritual guru, replete with heavy accent, far-out proclamations, and a tiny legion of followers.
A longtime cynic from New Jersey, Gandhi recounts his mounting disdain for spiritual leadership, a result of being inundated with Indian traditions as a child. As a documentarian, he initially intended to capture the phenomenon of gurus around the world, but felt compelled to raise the stakes once he noticed that "the gurus were trying to out-guru each other," as he explains in voiceover. So he decided to join them, growing out his beard and inventing his own nonsensical meditation techniques. Collecting a few eager disciples, all white Americans with their own soul-searching conundrums to work out, Gandhi begins his teachings with the eventual intention of revealing his true identity. Eventually, the director talks about his hesitation to unveil himself to his followers at the risk of ruining the positive vibes he has passed along.
The story is constructed as a mixture of satire and rhetoric, including the guru's off-the-cuff meditation sessions and dispensations of advice that his disciples eagerly embrace. They speak of Kumaré's mastery without ever questioning his credentials. Interviews with Kumaré devotees peppered throughout the movie show the intense convictions they take from his teachings, raising the question of whether the true identity of the guru actually makes a difference.
Cautious to avoid mean-spirited jabs at his subjects, Gandhi rarely condescends to them or the audience, inviting hearty debate once the credits roll. This is a sneak preview of the SXSW-acclaimed film ahead of its theatrical release.
- Eric Kohn