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Short Cut To Nirvana

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This enthralling documentary treks to the heart of the largest gathering of humanity on Earth: the Kumbh Mela. The huge festival has been held in India every 12 years for over two millennia, but is little known in the West—until now. The film spectacularly captures the sheer spiritual bliss, eternal wisdom and candid joy that envelop both the festival’s pilgrims and world-renowned gurus in attendance. SHORTCUT TO NIRVANA also features a special appearance by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.


You could call it a meeting or even a festival, but such words are entirely insufficient to describe the concept of Kumbh Mela. In Short Cut to Nirvana, Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day take a loose, non-judgmental look at a gathering that has been taking place for over two millennia. As many as 70 million attended when they shot the film in 2001 (whittled down to 85 minutes from 3,500 hours of footage). The celebration takes place every 12 years, between the holy Indian rivers of the Ganges and the Yamuna. Even Mark Twain once made the trip. The documentary opens with his recollection of an 1895 Kumbh Mela: "Pilgrims plodded for months to get here, worn, poor, and hungry, but sustained by unwavering faith." Then there's His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who has attended twice, the first time in the 1960s. He came to learn about other religions and to promote harmony between them. He makes it clear that he isn't there to convert anyone, but rather to learn. The film's unofficial guide is Swami Krishnanand, a Hindu monk, who translates the messages of various yogis, sadhus, and other spiritual figures. He is joined by a couple of open-minded Westerners, Dyan Summers and Justin Davis, who share their thoughts about the experience with the filmmakers. Short Cut to Nirvana is a lively, impressionistic introduction to a monumental event. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

  • A special address by his holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Additional conversations with five spiritual teachers at the Kumbh Mela
  • Interview with the filmmakers, with the behind-the-scenes footage
  • Slide show and gallery
  • Four years later, western pilgrims reflect on their experiences
  • Theatrical trailer
  • In English and Hindi with English subtitles

Product Details

  • Actors: Jasper Johal, Justin Davis, Swami Krishnanad, Pilot Baba, Yog Mata
  • Directors: Maurizio Benazzo, Nick Day
  • Producers: Maurizio Benazzo, Nick Day
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ARG2R8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,000 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Short Cut To Nirvana" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

It shows 70 million people united for the sake of goodness, for peace and universal love.
A yogi who wraps his wanger around a stick and has people stand on the stick...youch, painful just to watch even though the homey's smiling the whole time!
Eduardo Neecha
The layers of the visual (it is really most beautifully filmed), are complimented by a haunting soundtrack.
Anthony J. Bell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Anthony J. Bell on September 28, 2005
Format: DVD
Kumbh Mela, although a religious festival, could also be compared to 100 Burning Man Festivals happening in the same place (or 1000 Woodstocks). This documentary, the first to capture the taste and flavour of this remarkable gathering of humans (watch others jump on the bandwagon...) is really quite superb. No attempt is made to deliver a judgement of the event. Film-makers Benazzo and Day, who are never seen or heard during the movie, cleverly let the images and participants themselves define the experience for the viewer. In front of their camera, spiritually-minded folks from India and all round the world, mix with wide-eyed Westerners to create a fascinating juxtaposition of worldviews. Universal truths, beyond dogma and doctrine, bubble below the surface of the movie, surfacing occasionally, as when the Dalai Lama chats to a hushed audience in a large tent. There are other moments of high comedy. A young Indian devotee accompanies the film-makers, enthusiastically explaining what is going on. They meet an attractive spiritually curious blonde nurse from New York, and as the days roll on, and the young guru answers her questions on the Vedanta, they strike up a strong friendship. He confesses privately to the camera just how deeply touched he is by her inner light. She, meanwhile, works to distinguish the holy from the more worldly facts of male attention. This exemplifies the success of the movie: the eternal mixes with mundane, as one shaman sings beautifully to the lord, another hauls a car by his foreskin. A mother loses her child, and finds it again...someone is buried alive as a religious stunt... the crew stumbles across a bizarre Indian transvestite theatre.Read more ›
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Brian E. Erland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 16, 2005
Format: DVD
The Story of the Kumbh Mela in Hindu Mythology: Long ago the Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) were fighting over a pot (Kumbh) containing the "Nectar of Immortality." Indra grabbed the pot and raced for the heavens as the demons pursued not far behind in an epic chase that lasted for twelve days. To the Gods one day is equal to one year. Thus was born the Pot Festival, the Kumbh Mela, celebrated every twelve years to commerate Indra's heroic deed.

No one seems to know for sure exactly how long this festival has been celebrated. Some sources say the Kumbh Mela has an unbroken history going back to 200 B.C. while others push the date back as far as 500 B.C. Whatever the case one thing is certain, it's the longest running religious festival in history. The most recent addition of the festival occurred in 2001 and an estimated crowd of over 70 million pilgrims attended making this event the largest gathering of mankind in the history of the world!

Considering the immense history and the staggering logistics involved in attempting to encapsulate the heart and soul of such an event into one film, the filmmakers certainly faced an absolutely mind-boggling task. Yet somehow, someway Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day have accomplished the impossible with the release of their masterpiece, 'Short Cut to Nirvana!'

There is so much going on in this film that it's difficult to decide where to begin and what to focus on. Witnessing such an incredible mass of humanity gathered in one place at one time is enough to take your breath away.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Spyral on May 28, 2007
Format: DVD
I wasn't too impressed with this film. It was hyped up quite a bit when it came out, but I don't think it delivered. It seemed to be, basically, a small bunch of wide-eyed naive Westerners being led around by a young swami of dubious character. He showed them all the crazy far-out gurus and swamis and guys who stretch out their genitals, etc. I think that had the filmmakers known their subject matter a little better the film would have been much better. Instead we are experiencing a proxy version of these young astonished, but ultimately ignorant, foreigners' quasi-religious carnival ride. It also seemed to wander around in it's subject matter. By the end I was just glad to be able to move on to watch something else. Also, why did someone tag this film with "Bhutan"?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K Zethmayr on September 21, 2005
Format: DVD
This is a correction for a review submitted earlier. The most glaring error was "a event." Please replace the earlier text with the one that follows below the **** line.

********* the corrected review:

A glimpse into the biggest spiritual gathering on Earth in terms of numbers of participants. I came to the film as an eggheady Christian looking for common ground with other spiritual corners of the globe. Shortcut to Nirvana is a superb vehicle for such connection.

As others have stated, Kumbh Mela is too vast a festival to be crammed into a nutshell, and the filmmakers have not tried to do so. What they give us is a warm, enthusiastic overview of an event that moves a rich variety of people to community and vitality in their quest for godly energy. This westerner felt moved and encouraged to see Hindus of widely differing practices, as well as the Dalai Lama, and all seekers who attended, peacefully embracing each other's humanity and expressing their faith or searching for understanding. Shortcut to Nirvana will not tell you all you never knew about the Hindu world, nor the other worlds it touches. It may well inspire you to seek more understanding about those realms.
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