Film


SHORT CUT TO NIRVANA: KUMBH MELA
Directed by Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day
Opens April 15, Landmark Sunshine

Duchovny and Williams
photo: Larry Watson/Lions Gate Entertainment
Duchovny and Williams

An appropriately loose, muse-worthy initiation to India's Kumbh Mela, the world's largest religious festival, Short Cut is a free-for-all doc that, like its subject, seems on several planes at once. Directors Nick Day and Maurizio Benazzo have likely torched a Burning Man or two, but Nevada K-holers seem leagues away from the soul trips caught on tape here: Some 70 million pilgrims, led by a horde of dreadlocked, nude, ash-caked shamans, rush into the Ganges the way that other millions (including Mark Twain) have since well before Christ. Roughly guided by Swami Krishnanand, the makers zero in on samadhi, a deep meditation practiced by many of the babas on-screen, and its endless cavalcade of forms. One baba unloads secrets in a loopy auctioneer cadence while a girl whirls into unconsciousness. Another prays for peace atop a bed of nails atop a flaming pit. A really daring one cinches his penis to a pole and lets passersby stand on his rod-and-staff sculpture. Though cheesy hawkers inevitably coalesce—including ones jabbing onlookers in the eyes with patent medicine—the directors and subjects evince enough contagious ecstasy to gladden the most angst-ridden Western hearts. EDWARD CROUSE

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