Vikram Gandhi: Kumaré

The reason for this review that ends with concrete info in Danish: The DR  documentary strand Dokumania invites to a screening at the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen of this very entertaining documentary that is produced in the US, has travelled festivals over there, is American in tone, has been compared to ”Borat”, which is right as a starting point as the director also plays fake with his identity but this is where the comparison stops.

The power of illusion is the theme of the film – well, what could be a more precise description when it comes to cinema? The director of the film, that has the subtitle ”a true story about a false prophet”, ” is a young East Coast American from an Indian family. He is astonished by the success of Eastern-style gurus in the wealthiest parts of the world. As an experiment, Gandhi learns the tricks of the yoga trade, dresses himself as a guru, lets his beard grow, adopts a thick accent, and sets off under the name Kumaré to the desert city of Phoenix, Arizona. There, he quickly gathers a group of followers around him, whom he teaches to meditate to catchphrases such as “Be all that you can be.” (text taken from idfa annotation 2011). With his own commentary the audience is guided through his journey that must stop at a point, “I am not who you think I am”, he must reveal his true identity. What is the reaction from the disciples, did they buy his “help yourself, you don’t need a Guru”?  

Back to the power of illusion – in the beginning this blogger thought that the director wanted to reveal all the humbug in the commercial, spiritual world, but the film changes perspective and comes out differently, without (almost, I would say) making fun of the disciples who worship Sri Kumaré. 

USA, 2011, 84 mins.

Photos courtesy of Kahlil Hudson and Daniel Leeb (according to site of the film)

Filmen vises på Det Kgl. Bilbiotek mandag den 14. Maj kl. 17. Instruktøren er til stede. Begrænset plads.

Filmen vises på Dokumania, 22.maj 2012 kl. 21 med genudsendelse 26.maj kl. 17

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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