The “Movies with Spirit” monthly community film series kicks off its seventh season on September 15 at 7 p.m. with the kaleidoscopic documentary Baraka, shown at Flowing Spirit Healing/Woodstock Sufi Center, located at 33 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. Shot in 24 countries on six continents and accompanied by a World Music score, the film explores the love/hate relationship that humans have with nature. Images of shrines and holy places and natural wonders give way to urban squalor and ecological disaster, before the high ground is regained. In contrasting the peaks of human aspiration with the pits of human-caused ecological destruction, the film implicitly suggests that we can do better.
The big-picture questions raised by Baraka, which will be explored in the follow-up discussion, exactly fit with the underlying agenda of the Movies with Spirit series: connecting viewers with the world community and inspiring them with a sense of wonder. Creator and organizer Gerry Harrington, a journalist who works for UPI and lives in Kingston, was inspired to start the series in 2006 following the well-publicized and high-controversial visit of a neo-Nazi group to Kingston. The crisis resulted in “a huge sense of unity in the city,” Harrington recalled. “People came together in a remarkable way. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if people got together and recognized their commonalities on a regular basis?’”
Film showings struck him as the ideal vehicle, and he decided that they would occur in “places of worship or reverence – places people might not normally have felt comfortable entering. But by watching a film there, they realize they can go in there and it’s okay.”
Harrington presented his idea to the heads of the Ulster County Religious Council, Kingston Area Council of Churches, Ministers’ Alliance of Ulster County and Mid-Hudson Islamic Association, all of whom supported the venture and agreed to act as sponsors. (Later, the Dutchess County Interfaith Council came on board as well.) He spends several months doing research on the next season’s picks and bases the choices on three criteria: “awakening people to a sense of joy about life; inspiring love and connection and passion; and evoking a deeper sense of connection to the rest of life.” Harrington noted that “Not all films meet all three criteria”; Baraka is the exceptional film that does.
Each monthly film showing is at a different venue, which this year for the first time will include a venue across the river, in Rhinebeck. Admission to the showings is free, with a $5 suggested donation. (Harrington said that the series is also supported by a donation from Stewart’s Shops and his own pocket.) Baraka will be followed later in the year by The Help, The King’s Speech, Pieces of April, Safety Not Guaranteed, Old Goats, Hugo, Queen to Play, Gospel Hill and I Am.
The discussion afterward is always thought-provoking, Harrington said. A standout was the “electrifying, wonderful conversation” inspired by a showing of Conversations with God, which was the second screening after the series premiere; more recently, a showing of Being in Heaven resulted in “a remarkable discussion that got deep and philosophical,” generated by the strong opinions on either side: “Some people thought it was the most remarkable film ever seen and others the most hideous.”
Baraka will be shown on September 15 at 7 p.m. at Flowing Spirit Healing/Woodstock Sufi Center, located at 33 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. There is a $5 suggested donation. For more information, contact Harrington at (845) 389-9201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Details are also available at facebook.com/movieswithspirit.