FILMS FOR EVOLVING MINDS
Welcome to this newest edition of Cinema Noēsis!
Happy May in whatever form that takes for you, even the formless . . .
I’m finding that I sometimes have too much to share to wait for my monthly newsletter and have decided to experiment with an occasional “in-between” that will highlight current developments in both films and series that have a Cinema Noetic “vibe.” I've also changed the format (which now includes trailer links), so be sure to scroll to the end to get everything. The first section features what's new in streaming; the second has two new film recommendations: AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock and HUMAN. The regular monthly issue will continue to focus on new reviews I’ve posted on the website, additions to “On My Radar,” and film festivals.
The Path (Hulu)
I have a mild obsession for tales of guru-ness and spiritual ambition, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It stars Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”), Michelle Monaghan (Source Code, Mission Impossible III), and the well-traveled British actor Hugh Dancy as key players in a cultish community built around the teachings of Dr. Stephen Meyer (Meyerism) and the visionary power of ayahuasca and cannabis. Season 2 just concluded on Hulu, which is offering a one-month free trial that can easily accommodate a viewing binge.
I recently wrote an article about “Sense8” as one of four new streaming series with compelling storylines on the enigmatic nature of human consciousness – in this case eight people in different parts of the world who share their minds and, ultimately, their bodies and their lives. Their growing abilities are perceived as a threat and dark forces are hunting them down. Season 2 begins May 5 on Netflix. I strongly recommend starting with Season 1, though, as the storylines are intricate and the “origin myth” of their special abilities is established early on.
Oasis (Amazon - Pilot)
Based on the 2014 sci-fi novel The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, this new pilot from Amazon Prime takes place on the planet Oasis in the year 2032 where a group of 200 specialists are trying to build the first human space colony. Earth is dying and the stakes are high, but the promise of Oasis may not be what it seems. Most of the colonists are beset by hallucinations and a key figure in the group disappears – but not before summoning a “man of God” from Earth who he believes may have some answers. He arrives, but in the spirit of the 1961 novel (and 2002 film) Solaris, is quickly entangled in the mystery. You can watch it for free; it’s one of several pilots that Amazon is audience testing.
A quick shout-out for one of the best series I have ever watched on Netflix – or anywhere. Daniel Holden has just been released from Death Row on a technicality 19 years after confessing to a murder as a teen, but his guilt becomes less certain as new facts turn up. It’s an evenly paced but gripping psychological – and very human – small-town drama with taut storytelling, powerful character development, and consistently fine acting. Four seasons ended too soon.
Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock
In a high-stakes, winner-take-all battle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and protect water supplies and native lands, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, joined by tribal members and activists from around the country, faced off against state and federal law enforcement. The drama played out in front of a global audience and occupied headlines during the final months of 2016. Not surprisingly, the Trump administration rolled back protections that President Obama had put in place and the bulldozers started to roll in early 2017. Nevertheless, the peaceful resistance of the protesters and the issues they raised made an indelible mark on our awareness of what's at stake in the fight for social justice and resource protection. The film is available to stream on a pay-what-you-can basis until May 6; all proceeds go to the Indigenous Media Fund and a Pipeline Fighters Fund supervised by the film’s creators and a council of indigenous leaders.
Finally, there is nothing quite like HUMAN, which is not so much a film but a viewing event and global movement. Conceived by French producer-director Yann Arthus-Bertrand and launched at the UN General Assembly in New York and the Venice Film Festival in 2015, HUMAN has been screened in over 60 countries on five continents, and its three-part triptych has attracted more than 5M YouTube views. Why haven’t most of us seen it? The film, a collaboration of two nonprofits (the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation and the GoodPlanet Foundation with support from Google) and freely distributed, was created for a global audience as its subject matter focuses primarily on the lives of people that we in the developed world know little about. The thing is, these are the majority of people on the planet and their emotional, psychological, and spiritual lives are a lot like ours. What they don’t generally share is our leisure, wealth, opportunity, and safety. Raw, poignant, penetrating, and visually hypnotic, HUMAN is for anyone who needs a reminder that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
And in his latest masterwork, Bertrand returns to his core passion for the Earth’s creatures with Terra, about the beauty – and heartbreaking decline – of the planet’s biodiversity and what that may mean for human survival. The trailer, and a short video on the making of Terra, are available on YouTube.
If you have any suggestions for films or changes/improvements to the site, let me know via the Contact page. In the meantime, please spread the word about Cinema Noēsis.
May the force of transformational cinema be with you!