Enlighten Up! – a movie review

In 2008, filmmaker Kate Churchill decided to turn her lens towards her own passion of yoga.  Under the presupposition that yoga can “transform anyone”, she enrolls yoga-novice Nick Rosen in a breakneck-speed journey into the world of yoga in her documentary “Enlighten Up!

This average dude who’s never practiced yoga before starts his journey in the most popular studios in Manhattan with the biggest celebrity teachers.  For his first class ever, he drops into an Intermediate level.  Already, I’m skeptical.

Kate travels with Nick around the country to meet celebrity yoga teachers, gurus, and kooks in general.  He practices yoga and promises to measure its effect on his spiritual life.  Nick travels to Mysore and meets Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar, and Bikram.  He is given every possible opportunity to explore the history and practice of yoga, and he never buys in.  Kate is crushed and fears for the validity of her film.  She cans the film, goes on with her life, and her practice, and that’s that.

Yoga is a journey, that’s for damn sure.  But it’s one best begun alone.  The trouble with “Enlighten Up!” is that Kate wanted yoga to change Nick’s life.  Nick didn’t really care.  It wasn’t his journey, it was hers.  She offered him amazing, priceless opportunities that are totally unattainable for the average yogi.  Private kirtan session with David Life and Sharon Gannon, anyone?  Live in an ashram in Mysore and practice with Pattabhi Jois?

Ultimately, “Enlighten Up!” is a happy, but confused homage to yoga set against the backstory of the desperate, reaching (but empty) hand of the Truth Seeker.  In the end, Nick Rosen didn’t lap up yoga culture (saying he felt “like an outsider to yoga”), and yet he becomes more yogic in his lifestyle.  After the film shooting stopped, Nick stopped his yoga practice.  Instead, he decided to move closer to his mom, and to pursue his dream job in professional rock climbing.

Yoga rubbed off on Nick Rosen.  Not the cultural fads (celebrity gurus, teachers, DJ’s, etc.), but the beliefs in loving-kindness and present-living.  In that, Kate’s film experiment “Enlighten Up!” is full of hopeful possibility.

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One Comment on “Enlighten Up! – a movie review”

  1. melissa says:

    totally agree with you that yoga wasnt a journey for nick – it was a journey for kate (who annoyed me SO much through the entire doc). i do think nick was ‘touched’ and ‘influenced’ by yoga, because i saw such a shift with him – he began to do what he loved to do (climbing rocks) and moved closer to his family, which if i remember correctly, was something he was battling. i liked nick, i loved watching him grow during his experience (& we share a favourite yoga teacher – alan finger) and of course, i am so jealous of the experiences he got to have – and how he got to see how yoga is real + living. xx


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