Film review: False guru fools them all

Intrigued by the popularity of Eastern spirituality in the United States, New Jersey filmmaker Vikram Gandhi began research for a yoga documentary. Instead of completing that project, Gandhi addressed the competitive, insincere and downright corrupt practices witnessed in gurus in both America and India in his film “Kumaré.”  Backed by a degree of skepticism developed at an early age, Vikram Gandhi demonstrates the illusions of spirituality.

Donning the disguise of spiritual guru, Sri Kumaré, Gandhi establishes a life-changing alter ego in his film, “Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet.” As Kumaré, Gandhi grows out his hair and beard, adopts the loose, colorful garments of the berber tradition and mimics the voice of his grandmother while embarking on his journey in Arizona.

As anticipated, Kumaré acquires a following of devoted students, all who revere his assumedly authentic and wise teachings. Doling out impromptu blessings and gibberish chants, the guru meets some exceptionally quirky individuals and shares a part in deeply personal growth.

Still, perhaps the most touching progression is that of the narrator and guru himself. Though Gandhi remarks that he is shocked by the faith individuals have in someone no different than themselves, he too begins to believe in the rituals of his own creation. Eventually, Gandhi says that his ideal self is given life in the character, Kumaré.

“Kumaré” is a thoughtful and challenging documentary with an engaging accompaniment of humor and emotion. This film challenges the audience to question the authenticity and authority of spiritual leaders. It asks the viewer to consider beliefs and religious practices outside their own, no matter how unusual. At the insistence of Kumaré himself, one is encouraged to find the guru inside him or herself.

“Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet” will be playing at the Magic Lantern Theatre (25 West Main Avenue in downtown Spokane) at 2:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, and 8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Laryssa Lynch Staff Writer

Contact Laryssa Lynch at laryssalynch15@my.whitworth.edu.