The largest gathering of humans on Earth occurs every 12 years in India

The largest gathering of humans on Earth occurs every 12 years in India

Source:  The Atlantic

In January, an estimated 120 million people gathered at the confluence of three holy rivers in India: the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati.

The occasion was the Kumbh Mela, a historic Hindu pilgrimage that occurs just once every 12 years.

The pilgrimage is widely considered to be the largest gathering of humans on Earth and can even be seen from space.

Filmmaker Jeremy Snell told The Atlantic, “The scale is really something that can’t be captured—it has to be experienced.”

Snell tried anyway, and the results are astounding.

Earlier this year, the director traveled to Prayagraj and Varanasi, in India, to film “Pilgrims,” a short documentary that depicts the Kumbh Mela in striking 16-mm film.

“My approach was to look for faces and scenes that exemplified an enactment of faith,” Snell said.

Watch “Pilgrims” above and read the story at The Atlantic.

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Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan talks music and Christianity getting co-opted by authoritarianism

Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan talks music and Christianity getting co-opted by authoritarianism

Source:  Vox

David Bazan’s straightforward and bluntly honest brand of indie rock won him secular and Christian accolades alike starting in the mid-1990s, especially as songwriter and frontman for the influential Christian band Pedro the Lion.

Bazan was raised in a Pentecostal church and always assumed he’d be a music minister.  As part of Pedro the Lion, he became a success story for a different breed of Christian music, one that was musically and lyrically adventurous as well as blunt about the struggles of faith, which set the band apart from the more predictable inspirational pop that played on Christian radio stations.

But Bazan shocked many of his Christian fans in 2006, when he dissolved Pedro the Lion and began a solo career — a move that coincided with a shift in his religious beliefs, away from Christianity.

In the new documentary “Strange Negotiations,” filmmaker Brandon Vedder follows Bazan beginning shortly before the 2016 election and continuing into 2017.

That period spans a tour in which Bazan plays house concerts, confesses his difficulties with fatherhood, talks with fans — many of whom are navigating their own challenging relationship with faith — and grapples, especially, with the mounting evidence during the 2016 presidential election that assumptions he still held about American evangelical Christians were wrong.

“Strange Negotiations” is available now on iTunes.

Read the story at Vox.


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“Gift” explores the parallels between creating art and the act of giving

“Gift” explores the parallels between creating art and the act of giving

Source:  The Hollywood Reporter

You will think the world is a better place after seeing Robin McKenna’s documentary based on Lewis Hyde’s enduring 1983 book “The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.”

Inspired by the book’s exploration of the connection between making art and the act of giving, the film profiles four contemporary examples from around the world.

Cynics may scoff (and at times, to be fair, it’s hard not to agree with them during some of the film’s more fanciful moments), but for many people, “Gift” will live up to its title.

One of the more fascinating subjects is the Metropoliz Museum of the Other and the Elsewhere, described as “the first inhabited museum on Earth.”  Formerly a sausage factory, the Roman museum is now home to some 200 migrant families, who co-exist with the art being exhibited there on a rotating basis.

The institution is a minor miracle, considering the scarcity of affordable real estate in the Italian city, and is in constant danger of being encroached upon by government and commercial interests.  But the positive publicity and good will it has engendered has so far enabled it to thrive.

“Gift” is playing in select theaters around the country.

Read the story at The Hollywood Reporter.


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“Say Amen, Somebody” sings the praises of gospel music

“Say Amen, Somebody” sings the praises of gospel music

Source:  Los Angeles Times

What has been a very good year for gospel music on film is about to get better.  First came the release of “Amazing Grace,” the record of a legendary 1972 Aretha Franklin gospel performance in Los Angeles, and now comes the re-release of the 1982 documentary, “Say Amen, Somebody.”

Directed by George T. Nierenberg, the film profiles legends such as Thomas A. Dorsey, often considered the creator of gospel music and singer Willie Mae Ford Smith.  Another generation is represented by the Barrett sisters, the O’Neal twins, and Zella Jackson Price.

“Say Amen, Somebody” is currently playing in New York and opens in Los Angeles on September 20.

Read the story at the Los Angeles Times.


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In Netflix’s “The Family,” meet the evangelical Christians trying to turn America into a theocracy

In Netflix’s “The Family,” meet the evangelical Christians trying to turn America into a theocracy

Source:  The Daily Beast

According to “The Family,” a new unnerving five-part documentary series, the most powerful club in America is a consortium of religious true believers bound by their fanatical love of Jesus.

The organization has no official membership, requires no dues, and works overtime to avoid publicity.  Its ranks are comprised of both Republicans and Democrats.

And it seeks the eradication of the separation of church and state in its quest for its most coveted asset: power.

Jesse Moss’s miniseries is an adaptation of “The Family” (2008) and “C Street” (2010), two nonfiction books penned by Jeff Sharlet, whose experiences with the Family—often also referred to as the Fellowship—provide a window into an invisible world and movement hiding in plain sight.

“The Family” is available now on Netflix.

Read the story at The Daily Beast.

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Meet the Buddhist priest helping people with suicidal thoughts find reasons to live

Meet the Buddhist priest helping people with suicidal thoughts find reasons to live

Source:  Buddhistdoor Global

It’s an unfortunate but well known fact that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

Suicide is so common that during unexpected stops between train stations, passengers often assume the delay is caused by a person jumping onto the tracks.

Moreover, in Japanese culture, suicide can be seen as a moral and even necessary act when it comes to preserving one’s honor and dignity.

In the 2017 documentary “The Departure,” filmmaker Lana Wilson follows Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest who is deeply perplexed by this phenomenon and who, in offering his services to those who experience suicidal feelings, goes against the grain of Japan’s social norms.

“The Departure” is available on iTunes.

Read the story at Buddhistdoor Global.

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