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Darshan, the Embrace (Unrated)

Release Date: July 26th, 2006 (IFC Center) by IFC First Take.
Directed by Jan Kounen.
In English, French and Malayalam with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about Amma, a spiritual master from India who spreads her spiritual messages of peace and compassion and hugs thousands of followers.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Darshan, the Embrace scratches the surface of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, a.k.a. Amma, without getting to know her in a broader context. Director Jan Jounen focuses on Ammaís quest to spread her message of peace throughout India. Clearly, Amma represents an important figure in India and throughout the world given her charisma and abundant energy. Footage of her speeches while thousands of devoted followers listen to her words of wisdom along with her charities makes her into a saint. It would have been more complete to include more evidence of her generosity and compassion, such as her different programs she set up. More in-depth interviews with her followers would have helped to give a better perspective of what itís like to look up to Amma as a role model. Observing her embracing many followers during the final scenes further shows her saint-like qualities, but that excessive footage quickly gets tedious. More information about Ammaís past would have made this film much more compelling, powerful and fascinating to watch. SPIRITUAL VALUE: Although lacking in insight into Amma, Darshan, the Embrace does include insightful speeches where she comments about having a bigger heart rather than a bigger television screen. Itís very uplifting to watch her spreads her love of others through compassion, warmth and generosity.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough insight and information about Amma.


IN A NUTSHELL: Mildly fascinating and engaging, but occasionally tedious and lacking in insight.


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