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Doing Time, Doing Vipassana (Unrated)

Release Date: July 8th,2005 (NYC-Cinema Village)
Directed by Eilona Ariel and Ayelet Menahemi

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the results of Vipassana, a meditation used by prisoners.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The power of Vipassana is definitely interesting to watch, especially how they affect the prisoners' lives. However, this is not the kind of documentary that offers opposing viewpoints that add more conflict. It is true that Vipassana has not worked in other prisons in the past, but the reason for this failure is not explained. There have to be advocates of Vipassana somewhere, but their omittance makes this documentary feel like an advertisement. The cinematography is quite good without any shaky camerawork and the editing is smooth without any confusing jumps. Also, Kiran Bedi, the Vipassana leader, has a very charismatic and energetic personality. Fortunately, the film does not overstay its welcome at approximately 50 minutes, so it never truly becomes boring.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The basic principle of Vipassana involves looking within oneself to sort out all of ones feelings in utter silence. It is very uplifting that this method does bring prisoners to come to terms with their wrongful action(s) and even weep. The interviews with the prisoners are equally uplifting as is the compassion that Keran Bedi has. However, all of these uplifting moments don't have much to balance them that is thought provoking. For every good, there must be an evil and vice-versa. What could have been an intriguing analysis of an influential meditation instead becomes too neat, simple, and even redundant. Nonetheless, the overall success of Vipassana is very moving and the very last shot is a perfect way to end the film.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: No opposing viewpoints are brought up.


THE BOTTOM LINE: An interesting documentary that is somewhat moving but could be much more powerful and thought-provoking with a deeper analysis. A running time of 50 minutes is enough to keep you entertained, but it still feels like a rushed effort that ends up looking like an advertisement.


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