Cinema is a powerful creative art form that transports viewers to new realms, both real and imagined. Films entertain, of course, but they also have the potential to educate and inspire. From An Inconvenient Truth and The Cove to Waiting for Superman, films can expand our horizons and encourage us to take action in our lives and communities. During the sixth annual Esalen Inspirational Film Festival (EIFF), to be held April 28th through May 3rd, acclaimed filmmakers will gather with film enthusiasts at Esalen to explore cinema that uplifts the human spirit and ignites positive social change.
Unlike other film festivals, where attendees rarely interact with filmmakers, EIFF offers an immersive, collaborative experience. “There is an incredible sense of community during the festival,” says EIFF creator and co-director Corinne Bourdeau. “Attendees mix with the filmmakers on every level: You’re eating with them in the Lodge, walking across the garden with them, hanging out on a cushion with them, as well as viewing their films and participating in panels and other conversations. There is definitely a special magic that happens at Esalen. This is a festival that couldn’t happen anywhere else.”
In this setting, Corinne and festival co-director Christine Leuthold curate a lineup of exciting new films and filmmaker presentations. EIFF 2019 highlights have already created buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, including The Biggest Little Farm, which chronicles a couples’ eight-year journey to establish a 200-acre sustainable, regenerative farm in southern California.
Jeremy Seifert, co-director of The Devil We Know, and director of GMO OMG and Dive! Living off America’s Waste will present at the festival, and Alexandre Philippe will show his film, Memory: The Origins of Alien, which examines the making of Ridley Scott’s classic film, Alien, through the lens of Greek myth and mysticism. Acclaimed director and nature cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg also will give a special presentation. Known for his work with National Geographic and his Moving Art Netflix series, Louie harnesses the beauty of nature in his films to inspire wonder, awe, gratitude and action.
EIFF also includes experiential sessions outside the film viewing room. Last year, after showing her film Love thy Nature, filmmaker Sylvie Rokab led a forest bathing session at Esalen. “Since the film is about the beauty and intimacy of connecting with nature, it just seemed like getting outside was a natural progression,” shares Sylvie. “Typically, most forest bathing walks tend to be about 10 people. We had 32 people show up on the Esalen lawn. It was a beautiful way to deepen their experience of the film.” This year, psychologist and film music composer Michael Mollura will be at the festival, presenting film screenings and offering a Dream Music workshop session.
“What this festival provides is the opportunity to look deeply at the crises we face as a society today,” says Sylvie. “At the same time, Corinne and Christine are selecting films that uplift us, and show the possibility of change. By strengthening the community, joining forces, that’s how the world changes – by bringing our minds and hearts together. That’s what the film festival does.”
Learn more about the Esalen Inspirational Film Festival.
“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.”
“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.
What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?