Sunday, January 29, 2017

Now on Netflix: Enlighten Us (2016)

Enlighten Us (2016) - Directed by Jeremy Carchman

By Kenny Howell

The subject of Enlighten Us is much like Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, though with a much more tragic tone and probably a bit more insightful.

Enlighten Us focuses on James Arthur Ray, a motivational speaker much like Robbins who uses in your face tactics and is more often that not "getting real" with you. He rose to prominence because of The Secret, the motivational movie and book from a few years ago that promised if you thought positively, good things would come to you. Oprah Winfrey started touting it, so of course it exploded from there.

But unlike Robbins, Ray's tactics caused a tragedy. He had a high dollar retreat where attendees among other things, stayed in a sweat lodge. Ray apparently didn't understand the true dangers of this sort of thing, because people started to get sick and wanted to get out. He told them they had to be strong and power through it, but it ended up with three people getting killed. Ray was convicted of negligent homicide and spent two years in prison.

Director Jeremy Carchman examines how this happened. Was this man some kind of monster that became a sort of cult leader, or was he someone who meant well, but got too carried away. Either way, Ray does seem remorseful. He took full responsibility before and after his jail time, but he also went back out on the motivational speaking tour circuit, which rubbed some people the wrong way, especially the families of the victims. So the question becomes he is trying to espouse what he learned from this situation, or is he someone that became drunk on the power, and can't step away from it.

Carchman does a good job of not giving you those answers and just laying out all sides. It's kind of a shame that this didn't get as much notice as Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru because it is more astute, and frankly a better film.

Enlighten Us is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***1/2

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