Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Stories Behind the Storytellers

The Esalen Inspirational Film Festival (EIFF) concluded its sixth annual gathering last month with its unique mixture of art and inspiration that is anything but ordinary. “Of course it's not traditional, because it’s happening at Esalen, and nothing about Esalen is typical!” says festival co-founder Corinne Bordeau. “There’s a sense of intimacy and collaboration that includes not only the filmmakers but every participant.” A social change aspect marks the festival as well and is reflected in the many films that are programmed such as this year’s “Biggest Little Farm” and “Nature to the Rescue”.

“You think, I’m going to a festival and I’m just going to watch movies,” adds co-leader Christine Leuthold. “Instead, it’s transformative. Our festival has an experiential quality to it as well: we might watch a film on rural homesteading and then go spend an hour in the Esalen Farm.”

Discover some of the stories behind the featured EIFF storytellers...

Adam Schomer: The Road to Dharma
“My name is Adam Schomer, and I’m a director and producer of documentary films and docu-series. I’m here at the Esalen Inspirational Film Festival, talking about "The Road To Dharma". It's a 10-part show about motorcycles, the Himalayas, monsoon rains, yogis, and real, authentic men and women that are seeking freedom.

I chose to make this series because for me, my life experience is key for learning. An adventure and a pilgrimage can be really important in anyone’s life. We all need to go places where our ego will be revealed, where we can’t escape, where we can start to see our true self in a way that might be painful and difficult. So that’s why we wanted to make the show: to inspire other people to inquire, to think about freedom in a different way.”

Jill Demby Guest: And Now Love
“I’m Jill Demby Guest, here at the Esalen Inspirational Film Festival, where I'm showing my film "And Now Love", the story of Dr. Bernard Bail, a World War II Jewish vet who was shot down and captured by the Nazis. While recovering in a German hospital, he fell in love with a German nurse, who saved his life, in a secret love affair. After that he became a doctor and psychoanalyst who pioneered a radical theory that strikes at the root of all mental illness — a theory called the Mother’s Imprint, which disrupted the Freudian methodology in psychoanalysis.

I think what I bring to the table as a documentary filmmaker is that I have a strong background as an editor and a writer. The alchemy of pictures, words and music has been in my cells since I was in my 20s.

In any story, it’s important to find the emotional through-line. Of course, you have your experts talking, but the idea is, you have to make the images emotional -- you can’t just have a bunch of talking heads, you have to augment it with really wonderful material, and great music, pacing and rhythm. That’s really the magic of it: to lift it off the page.”⁣

Louie Schwartzberg: The Magic Beneath Us
“I’m Louie Schwartzberg, and I’m a filmmaker. I’m here at the Esalen Inspirational Film Festival, showing a film about mushrooms called "The Magic Beneath Us".

I really love taking people through journeys in time and scale, filming in time lapse, slow motion, micro, macro: basically making the invisible visible, because that for me, is what makes film special. Twenty-four frames per second is kind of boring, for me, actually. There are other windows into reality. How does a plant see the world? How does a hummingbird? We all have different metabolic rates, and a camera has different frame rates. What I’m trying to do is kind of break the old fashioned concepts of time.

What’s great about being a filmmaker today is that the barrier to entry has been eliminated, with digital tools and technology. You don’t have to have a lot of money. My recommendation for young filmmakers, the most important thing you can do, is to develop your own voice. Figure out what you want to say that’s unique. Don’t copy the style of any other filmmaker. You were born into this time and place for a reason, so once you figure that out, then what you want to do is share it. But that means being passionate.”

Ricki Lake: Weed the People
“Hi, I’m Ricki Lake. I’m here at the magical Esalen Institute in Big Sur for the Esalen Inspirational Film Festival, with my film "Weed the People". It’s a film that I worked on with my director, Abby Epstein, for more than six years, and it explores cannabis oil for children suffering from pediatric cancer. We followed our subjects for five and a half years while they were on western medicine, chemotherapy and the like, and also on cannabis oil. And I’m so pleased to present it to this community.”

“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.”
–David B.

“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.“
–David Z.

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?


Esalen Team