Friday, October 19, 2012

The Cleres' YOGAWOMAN: not a bad infomercial for both yoga and women

Yes, yes -- TrustMovies knows that the term infomercial, when used to describe a movie opening commercially in theaters, is somewhat downgrading. But wait: Some infomercials are better than others. And this one, once you set your mind to realizing that you'll be getting a large dose of "sell," so far as yoga, its teachers and practitioners are concerned -- it is not long into things before you feel that rah-rah spirit taking over -- you might just be able to relax, sit back in your seat, let the movie wash over you and even learn some interesting things.

First off, I do wonder why they chose to call this movie YOGAWOMAN, as there is no remotely singular woman involved in all this. Yogawomen would have been much more appropriate (check out the credits to view the lengthy list of all the women seen on screen), but perhaps the filmmakers figured the singular form had more mythic meaning. (There's a lot of myth going on here. Joseph Campbell would have appreciated the attempt.)  The filmmakers -- co-producers/directors/writers Kate Clere McIntyre and Saraswati Clere and Michael McIntyre (co-producer and director of photography and sound) are shown above, with Kate on the left.

One of the good things we take away from the film is some understanding of the history of Yoga around the world. Way back in time, women were involved in its practice and teaching, then as civilization took on its paternal mode, yoga became an entirely male thing. Only with the 1970s and perhaps spearheaded by the feminist movement, did women become involved as teachers and leaders again. These days it is practically all women. We see snippets of yoga being practiced around the world --  Italy, Germany, Britain -- with perhaps a few more scenes of yoga classes in session than we might want to watch (practicing yoga is active; watching it being done is pretty passive).

Then come the Yoga for... sections: yoga for therapy, yoga for health, for kids, for cancer survivors, for prison inmates (for me, this proved the most interesting section), for good sex ("In my workshop," notes one teacher, "I am introducing so many women to their pelvis"), for pregnancy, for the elderly. In one long portion the movie takes us to Uganda, where one yoga teacher is "giving back" by teaching yoga to HIV-infected women; another is set in Kenya, where an instructor explains how yoga has empowered her.

The movie could have been better organized (we get pregnancy sections twice), and while there is mention of statistics that say this or that, no backup or sources are cited. When the film gets more heavily into the spiritual -- some might say mystical -- side of things, I had to stop and ask, So just what is yoga? Exercise? Religion? Some helpful combo of both? The movie doesn't begin to address this question except by offering individual anecdotes and testimonials, which begin to sounds a bit like those Wednesday evening "testimony" meetings I used to attend as a child raised in the the religion of Christian Science.

Still, this film might just capture some of us and induced us to calm down a bit. As one of those gals in prison notes, instead of fighting when she grew angry, she just began saying her Ommmmmm.

Yogawoman opens here in New York City today, playing at the Angelika Film Center. It will come to the Los Angeles area next week, and will even play London soon, it seems. To see all currently scheduled playdates and theaters, click here.

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