..Victoria Barkley..

Film Festival for Mind, Body and Spirit

I recently attended the First Annual New Realities Film Festival, co-produced by Ms. Kim Jackson of Streetwise Productions and Mr. Alan Steinfeld.

The event, presented over a number of days both at the Subud Center and at the Meta Center in New York City, featured "documentaries, animations and narratives, focusing on mind, body and spirit."

Mr. Steinfeld, who also hosts the weekly New Realities television program, introduced the festival on opening night to an auditorium filled with film and video enthusiasts, eager to view something new.

Here's a brief synopsis of the Festival's 10 films:

Never Wear a Dead Man's Shoes
A short movie written by Mr. Judd Lear Silverman and directed by Mr. Alan Steinfeld was by far one of my favorites. In just 15 minutes, this comedy had everyone smiling about the Thanksgiving Day adventures of a young man visiting a family gathering at his late uncle's home.

Who says a film needs to be nearly two hours long? This little gem, packed enough character development, magic and wit, to win over several currently running Hollywood movies, at local theaters. I just loved it! And judging by the audience's endlessly rolling laughter, everyone else loved it too.

Tantric Tourists
The comical travel documentary, which followed the above mentioned little masterpiece, was directed by Alexander Snelling. This film had many Laurie Handlers fans in the audience, applauding her on-screen adventures with a bus full of spiritual seekers traipsing through India, filmed by British filmmakers.

A London Film School graduate project of Mr. Mark Lee: In this short narrative, a chance encounter with a bag lady on a New York City subway creates a cascading chain of events leading to all sorts of surprising, synchronistic connections.

I especially liked the ending, which left me wanting more. Perhaps Mr. Lee could expand his scope by developing it into a feature length story. I would love to see a longer version, or a sequel!

The Scientist
This docu-fiction, written and directed by Mr. Zach LeBeau — chronicling a grief stricken, self-medicating, physicist's scientific exploration into the great unknown, in search of his dead wife and daughter — did not disappoint.

The Little Soul and the Sun
A children's animated tale of resolving issues around forgiveness, as seen through the belief system of Mr. Neale Donald Walsch — perhaps a bit too religious for secular consumption, but charmingly appropriate for smaller kids in Sunday school.

Sita Sings the Blues
An animated musical amalgam of the Hindu myth of Ramayana and the filmmaker, Nina Paley's, own marital break-up yarn. This creative project uses hilariously hip shadow puppets and original 1920's recordings of jazz singer, Annette Hanshaw to tell the story.

Ms. Paley's work recently aired on PBS, and is now available for free viewing online at WNET/Thirteen's "Reel13.org."

Bill Cote documentary: Cote, famous for speculative quests, filmed yet another one of his thought provoking journeys into the mysteries of rock formations apparently etched by unknown hands on a plateau, high in the Andes Mountains.

Disappointment Valley
Moving Cloud Productions' cinematic critique of the Bureau of Land Management portrays the plight of the wild mustang, swiftly disappearing from the US southwest.

The Hidden Hand
Explores the UFO phenomena and extraterrestrial contact throughout history, offered just a taste of filmmaker Mr. James Carman's half completed work in progress.

The Festival ended with a much awaited special screening of For the Next 7 Generations. Director Carole Hart, filming a group of 13 indigenous grandmothers from around the world, traveling and healing together, sharing their collective wisdom through spontaneous rituals around the globe.

My favorite scene was the grandmothers' audience with the Dalai Lama at his residence in the Tibetan community in India.

Ms. Jackson and Mr. Steinfeld are two brave souls to venture into showcasing ten films that are not easily categorized. These carefully chosen independent works, off the beaten path, were well worth watching.

Below budget, yet groundbreaking indies like these are generally under-represented by distributors. Some in spite of winning awards at various film festivals, are still not picked up for wider circulation. Mr. Steinfeld mentioned a trend by producers to privately fund their distribution in order to bring their work to the public.

While Hollywood is churning out computer generated, high budget, action films for public consumption, guerrilla filmmakers are quietly offering quality entertainment to stretch our minds and feed our souls.

To paraphrase Mr. Steinfeld's closing comments in a nutshell: It is the artist who intuitively perceives alternate realities first and brings back images to inform and inspire the rest of us. Film is the perfect art form for passing on new vision.

I am looking forward to seeing next year's selections.

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Other stories by Victoria Barkley:
The Butterfly Circus – review of short film
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee – movie review
A Song and a Sign
Birthday Kirtan
Is Anybody There? – movie review
Real Soul Food
The Gift
Silver Sixpence in her Shoe
Breakfast with Scot – movie review
Sex Drive -- movie review
What Just Happened – movie review
American Teen – movie review
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – movie review
A Message From Mom
A Tale of Two Bunnies
Animal Nature
Into the Wild - movie review
Darshan in the Dark Light of the Moon
Love Never Dies
Green Roofs, Weeds and Wildflowers
Greeting Sunrise
Arctic Tale – movie review
Seasons of Gandhi