Jillian Elizabeth and Neil Dalal’s acclaimed film Gurukulam (One Without A Second) will be released in New York June 3rd and Los Angeles June 10th, with a multi-city roll-out to 50 plus cities to follow via Matson Films.
Called “a rich and engrossing [film] about a way of life that is rooted in ancient texts and wisdom” by best-selling author and Harvard professor Sanjiv Chopra, Gurukulam follows a group of students and their teacher as they confront fundamental questions about the nature of reality and self-identity.
Set at an ashram in a remote forest in Tamil Nadu, India, Gurukulam (meaning: family of the teacher; traditional place of study) follows a French Muslim businessman, an American psychology professor, a Japanese Yoga teacher, and a young South Indian Brahmin, as they study the ancient practice of Advaita Vedānta, the Hindu tradition of non-duality and one of the philosophical roots of the Yoga movement, as taught by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, spiritual Guru of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and one of the few remaining traditional teachers of Vedānta.
This was, in fact, the last long-term residential course that he taught, as Swami Dayananda passed in September of 2015.
A feast for the senses, Gurukulam is a furthering of the sensory experiential movement of vérité filmmaking that has enthralled art house audiences around the world and brings together many of that movement’s early initiators, including members of the filmmaking teams ofSweetgrass, Foreign Parts, People’s Park, Manakamana and Leviathan.
The richly layered soundscape and the intimate imagery shot by sensory ethnographer J.P. Sniadecki (Foreign Parts, People’s Park) and director Elizabeth (Whatever it Takes) offer an intimate view into the daily life of the monastery and bring us into a place of extraordinary beauty and simplicity.
“I am a huge fan of the sensory ethnography documentaries and GURUKULAM feels like an evolution in that vérité tradition,” said Matson Films president Richard Matson. “Jillian and Neil have created a truly unique cinematic atmosphere – one which I think will prove to be an immersive and meaningful theatrical experience for a wide range of audiences.”
Widely sought after for both his command of Hindu spiritual texts, such as the Upaniṣads and the Bhagavad Gītā, as well as his capacity to communicate ancient wisdom into living experience, Dayananda weaves together daily chores, meditation, ritual, and rigorous study to impart his knowledge and experience to his pupils and connect the natural and spiritual worlds in moments of surprising revelation and comic contradiction. Deeply observational and experiential, Gurukulam evokes the presence of the place and a tactile sense of the sacred.
“Gurukulam is one of those rare films that speaks to both a niche audience within the realm of conscious cinema and also to arthouse audiences,” said Matson VP of Marketing Hannah Campbell. “Its immersive environment creates an experience for viewers beyond the sheer thematic content, which is truly where the enchantment lies.”
Both Matson and Campbell worked on the successful and award-winning 2014 documentary Awake: The Life Of Yogananda, about the Hindu swami who brought yoga and meditation to the West.
“When we entered the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in rural India,” said filmmakers Elizabeth and Dalal, “we discovered a place that was both ancient and contemporary—a unique contemplative world and a necessary contrast to urban society. We knew that we had to approach the subject in an exceptional and non-traditional manner in order to convey its essence.”
From Swami Dayananda’s first lesson: ‘Saying is only an expression of what you see,’ Gurukulam is a rare invitation to look, listen, and experience a contemplative rhythm of life as old as the Bhagavad Gītā and as new as present-day India.