AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda Wins Awards and Strong Praise at Film Festival Openings

 2014 Illuminate Film Festival Audience Award for Best Film

June 12, 2014
AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda, the feature-length documentary that has received glowing accolades from both SRF members and those new to the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda at several film festivals, has recently won awards at the Maui Film Festival and at the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, Arizona. At the Maui Film Festival it won the Audience Award in the category "Spirit in Cinema"; and at the Illuminate Film Festival it received the "Audience Award for Best Film."

2014 Maui Film Festival Audience

More than 1,000 people attended the screening of AWAKE at the Maui Film Festival, which took place on Friday, June 6. "Using a seamless mix of re-creations and fascinating true footage," states the festival's official review of the film, "this very even-tempered documentary takes its audience all the way through a saint's life, from his first sensations in the womb to that moment in 1952 when, having recited a poem to a large crowd at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, he exited his body just like that....In between those events he changed the Western world."

The documentary received standing ovations at the Illuminate Film Festival in Sedona, Arizona, where it screened on both Friday, May 30 and again on Sunday, June 1. Both showings sold out within hours after tickets went on sale, and the Illuminate festival organizers eventually had to move the second screening to a considerably larger theatre (below) to accommodate the crowds.

Illuminate Film Festival screening in Sedona, AZIlluminate Film Festival's Michael Montoya, who introduced the film at the first screening, told the audience, "I find a common story among seekers, one in which awakening with Yogananda is a part. He has brought so much consciousness to the planet."

A total of nearly 800 people attended the two screenings in Sedona, which included a Q&A period with the filmmakers, kirtan (led by Mas Vidal, one of the interviewees in the film), and a guided meditation led by Brother Balananda on the first day and Brahmachari Martin after the second screening.

Opening night at the Egyptian Theater, Seattle International Film FestivalThe film's May 18 opening night at the Egyptian Theatre (right), as part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), was particularly auspicious — not only because it marked the world premiere of the film, but because it played on the very same stage where Paramahansa Yogananda first spoke to Seattle audiences nearly ninety years ago — on October 7, 1924 when it was known as the Masonic Temple. Paramahansaji's first lecture here was on the topic "Mastering the Subconscious Mind." In all, he gave a total of 11 lectures and 14 classes at this venue in 1924 and 1933.

In introducing AWAKE to the audience members, SIFF artistic director Carl Spence commented: "It's an extraordinary biography about an East Indian mystic… I didn't know that much about [Yogananda] until I saw this film and from the moment I turned it on and saw it on the big screen to the end I was captivated."

Q&A with the filmmakers and SRF monasticsNearly 1,000 people saw the film over a two-night period, first at the Egyptian Theatre in downtown Seattle, and two nights later at the Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue. At left, the SIFF screenings are followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers – Peter Rader, Lisa Leeman, and Paola di Florio, and are joined on stage by Self-Realization Fellowship monastics Brother Chidananda, Brother Vishwananda , and Brahmachari Shekhar, all of whom appear in the film.

Audiences at all three festivals were deeply moved by the film and shared their experiences during the discussions and screenings. Perhaps the following comment from a filmgoer in Sedona reflects the experience felt by many who attended the film showings: "This is the Yogananda I met in my heart when I first read the Autobiography of a Yogi. I never thought I would have that special experience again. I'm grateful to all of you who made this film a possibility and reality."

If you would like more information about the film or festival screenings, and to join the filmmakers' mailing list, please visit the film's website at www.AWAKEtheYoganandaMovie.com.

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