2 Nov 2013
Serving Life

Director: Lisa Cohen (2013, English, 85 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.0), Amazon.

Watch online: Hulu.

Similar movies: death, documentary, illness, intense, old age.

Summary: A beautiful documentary, emotional and insightful. Prisoners in a maximum security prison in USA volunteer to become hospice workers. They take care of other prisoners who are dying. Everybody is authentic. Nobody is acting. Highly recommended. Amazon reviews are helpful in understanding what feelings the movie evokes. The title of the movie has double meaning: the prisoners are "serving life".


Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Director: Joe Cross (2010, English, 97 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (67%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: Hulu.

Similar movies: documentary, food, illness.

Summary: The documentary narrates the personal story of an Australian businessman named Joe Cross. Joe has been plagued by an autoimmune disorder for over nine years. He comes in touch with Dr Joel Fuhrman who encourages him to do a juice fast for 60 days. Dr Fuhrman is a prominent advocate of Plant Based Diets. He has also written Fasting and Eating for Health, a book on fasting.

Joe Cross comes to USA. For 60 days, he drives from coast to coast in a Mercedes Convertible. He buys a juice machine and consumes only juice for 60 days. Every day, he makes videos of himself and others that he meets at restaurants and on streets. He asks people questions like "Do you believe that you eat healthy?", "What changes would you like to make?" and "Why do you not make changes?" The responses to these questions are insightful.

By the thirtieth day, Joe meets a truck driver who has exactly the same diagnosis as him! A brief meeting with the truck driver is not sufficient to convince him to try his juice diet.

After 60 days, Joe is back in Australia, running business as usual. He looks much fitter and happier. He is cured.

After a couple of months, Joe receives a call from the truck driver who now seeks his help. Out of compassion, Joe makes time for him, revisits USA to help the driver get started with his juice fast. Both juice fasts in the movie were done with medical supervision.

The journey of the truck driver is also very interesting. Day after day, his weight drops and his happiness level increases. Soon, he becomes an inspiration to many of his community members.

What is great about the movie is that nobody is acting! Everybody is authentic, with honest answers. I found the movie very uplifting. It showcases the journey of two individuals with tremendous discipline in transforming their diet and lifestyle.

Joe Cross opened a website for others to try juice fasting: Rebooting with Joe.

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead played an important role in my life. Soon after the movie, I did a 10-day juice fast. My experiences are narrated here: Juice Fasting for Calmness and Clarity.


Islam — Empire of Faith

Director: Robert A Gardner (2000, English, 160 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (82%), IMDB (7.6), Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube, YouTube, YouTube, YouTube.

Similar movies: documentary.

Summary: Yet to write.


Forks Over Knives

Director: Lee Fulkerson (2011, English, 90 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (59%), IMDB (7.7), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: NetFlix, YouTube.

Similar movies: documentary, food.

Summary: Yet to write.


Supermen of Malegaon

Director: Faiza Ahmad Khan (2008, Hindi, 69 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.9), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: YouTube.

Similar movies: city life, documentary, true story.

Summary: Supermen of Malegaon is an offbeat, award-winning documentary by Faiza Ahmad Khan. It narrates the passionate journey of Shaik Nasir, a low budget film maker. Shaik Nasir is a resident of Malegaon, a small town in Nashik district in Maharashtra, India. He makes comical spoofs of popular Hollywood and Bollywood movies, tailored for residents of Malegaon. While the documentary is being shot, Shaik Nasir is making a spoof of Superman. The short film by Shaik Nasir is also called Supermen of Malegaon (YouTube, with English sub-titles) — it is only 8 minutes long. I'd recommend watching the original short film after watching the documentary.

The passion of Shaik Nasir, his crew and the artists is amazing. They all belong to the middle-class in a small Indian town. The depiction of their day to day lives, their aspirations, and their acceptance of life is touching and enriching. What I love the most about Supermen of Malegaon is that nobody is acting — everybody speaks honestly from their heart.


Cave Digger

Director: Jeffrey Karoff (2013, English, 39 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (N/A), IMDB (7.2), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Similar movies: biopic, documentary, true story.

Summary: Ra Paulette is a sculptor who has been digging massive, ornately carved, sandstone caves in New Mexico, USA, for over 25 years. He calls them "wilderness shrines", massive in scale, poetic in design. He uses only hand tools like shovels, pick axes and scrapers.

A documentary film maker followed Ra for 3 years as he dug and made the Oscar nominated Cave Digger (39 mins, 2013) — available here. Ra's philosophy is heartwarming (see excerpts from the documentary below).

Interviewer: "Would you say that you are obsessed?"
Ra: "Would you call a child being obsessed with play? You wouldn't use that word - obsessed. You know, when you're doing something that you love and are drawn to it, you wanna do it all the time!"
Ra: "I see this as an environmental project. I'm trying to open up people's feelings."
Ra: "It has a lot to do with the juxtaposition of opposites: the sense of being underground with the light streaming in; the intimacy of being in a cave, yet the columns end up very large, sometimes thirty to forty feet high."
Ra: "Most of the wonder I feel is in the actual making of the cave. Once they are made, I move on (with a chuckle) if I want fresh wonder"
Interviewer: "Does it ever get lonely out here? Doing all this work?"
Ra: "I'm never lonely"
Interviewer: "If there is one simple thing that you wanted people to take away from being in one of your caves, what would it be?"
Ra: "At least, a moment ... or a length of time in which they had a deeper feeling and a deeper understanding of themselves and life."


© Copyright 2008—2018, Gurmeet Manku.