“Does our pop culture influence our violent behavior?” director Greg Reitman asks in voiceover, dismayed by the vindictiveness he now sees in the comic books he loved as a child. “Does any of this really matter?” he muses during a peace march. “What can nature teach us?” he asks, staring at a large tree. And, after his interviews with peace proponents, nutritionists, environmentalists, and folk singers have left him hopelessly befuddled, he poses another question: “Where do we go from here?”
Far too much of Reitman’s Rooted in Peace, a personal documentary about the director’s gradual transformation from an angry, unhealthy activist into a meditative, spiritually well-adjusted one, is riddled with generalities like these. Like Michael Moore, Reitman often feigns shock or chagrin over well-known facts: Protests are not well covered by news outlets. There are lots of war-centered video games, but none about peace. Unlike in Costa Rica and other countries that prioritize education and the environment, our government spends a ton of money on the military.
That said, the film is not without its trenchant moments, most rooted not in peace but in science. When Reitman takes a test at the HeartMath Institute — which proposes that the heart can control the mind — it is fascinating to watch his heart rate normalize upon thinking happy thoughts.
And those unaware that David Lynch, a director who has never shied from violence, is a longtime believer in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s transcendental meditation movement may be jolted at seeing him perform hippie songs with Donovan Leitch.
Rooted in Peace
Directed by Greg Reitman
Blue Water Entertainment
Opens December 16, Cinema Village