Seventh heaven

The 7th SPIRIT Film Festival in Tel Aviv showcases feature films, documentaries and short films that focus on the quest for meaning and inspiration.

The SPIRIT  film festival focuses on human spirituality (photo credit: courtesy)
The SPIRIT film festival focuses on human spirituality
(photo credit: courtesy)
Many believe that the number 7 has mystical powers, so it’s not surprising that the seventh SPIRIT Film Festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, which runs from October 23 to 26, looks to be especially intriguing and inspiring.
The festival showcases feature films, documentaries and short films that focus on the quest for meaning and inspiration and that move people to try to live in harmony with themselves, with the people around them and with their planet.
As Hollywood has long ceased to make movies that deal with genuine human emotions, more and more independent filmmakers have chosen to focus on human spirituality. The SPIRIT Festival presents the best of contemporary films made from a spiritual point of view from around the world.
The opening-night movie, Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, is an acclaimed documentary meditation on its title, a Sanskrit word that means “The ever-turning wheel of life.” It is a visually stunning exploration of that idea, filmed in 25 countries on five continents, in 70-millimeter film for stronger clarity.
Fricke and his filmmaking partner, Mark Magidson, previously made the award-winning films Baraka and Chronos, which, like Samsara, received critical praise for their visual artistry and the music that complements it. New camera technology, the kind that is used in the riveting nature documentaries we’ve seen in recent years, allows for surprising shifts in perspective and unusual angles. But sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words: If you watch the trailer for this movie, you’ll long to see the entire film.
The closing-night film is the controversial documentary Blackfish. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film examines the story of an orca at Sea World that killed several people, including its trainer. Beyond the fascinating story of this creature, the film is an examination of the larger theme-park culture training killer whales and putting on shows with them. US theme parks did not make it easy for the filmmakers to get this challenging film out to the public, and it is forcing people to rethink the issue of keeping animals in captivity and making them act in ways that may be entertaining to us but are unnatural and painful to them.
Another film that some may find controversial while others will deem intriguing is Benjamin Tucek’s Tantra.
It’s about a group of Westerners on a retreat to explore tantric sexuality.
Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost’s Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent is an exploration of the Red Tent movement, where women get together to celebrate and explore the meaning of being female.
Wendy J.N. Lee’s Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey is a film about a pilgrimage a teacher and his 700 students have made to cleanse the Himalayas of manmade environmental damage. They focus in particular on trying to reverse some of the effects of global warming. Michelle Yeoh, an actress, martial-arts expert and onetime Bond Girl, is one of the film’s producers, and actress Daryl Hannah narrates it.
While most of the films in the festival are from North America and Asia, there is an Israeli film: Dror Shostak’s The Secret Ingredient. It follows the founders of the popular Tel Aviv restaurant 24 Rupees on a trip to India.
While at first they hope to find new ingredients to improve their recipes, the trip turns into a deeper spiritual quest. The film will have its world premiere at the festival.
These are just a few of the many and varied subjects covered in this festival, which encompasses films that show that the word “spiritual” can have many meanings and can inspire people to take action to try to change the world around them.
For more information and to order tickets, visit the festival website at