I was skeptical, even frightened, by the thought of enduring a touchy-feely New Age film about "the meaning of life" from a self-proclaimed proletarian filmmaker and Michigan lawyer, Ward Powers. But those daunting visions of drum circles and What the Bleep Do We Know?–style meditations were somewhat confounded in this interview-filled documentary. Subjects including Dragonfly "the Woodstock Fairy" and Deepak Chopra mostly answer a series of questions posed by the filmmakers: "What happens to you after you die?"; "When is war justifiable?"; and, yes, "What is the meaning of life?"
One director Powers (right) seeks unity.
Powers and his novice crew line up Q&A's with leading figures of spiritual thought—authors, religious leaders, scholars, plus the odd celebrity and man on the street. And though always respectful of each individual's opinions, the clever ordering of interviews provides some dialectical structure (e.g., a visit to an atheist picnic follows an intense conversation with the fervent host of a fundamentalist Christian radio show). One is all about the dialogue, the search for connectedness among these disparate opinions. You'll have to decide how to reconcile Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman (father of Uma) discussing the distractions of his ringing cell phone and Chris Willis, a homeless Colorado boy, squirming when asked what his one wish for the world would be.
Unfortunately, as with Marlee Matlin in What the Bleep, there's also a cheesy narrative thread—some guy looking like a '90s karaoke star who wanders through the film "finding himself." (On the DVD, at least, you'll be able to fast-forward through these passages.) In the end you're left with the big spiritual questions sometimes only pondered at drunken dinner parties. And if Dragonfly the Woodstock Fairy is qualified to answer, pass me another cocktail. (NR)