Phoebe reviews her daughter Atmo Georgia’s long-awaited documentary.
Mantra: Sounds into Silence is a film that explores the increasing popularity of chanting as a healing social experience. In recent decades people all over the world, often with no experience of meditation, and who are not particularly religious, have discovered that joining a group to chant mantras together can give them a taste of inner peace and is a wonderful nourishment for the soul.
I know this film’s director well – Atmo Georgia (Georgia Wyss) – being her mother. She used to dream of making her own videos when she was still quite a small child. And after leaving school in Germany, she learned the trade of video editing by apprenticing in different companies in Hamburg, and working nights in the Osho discos. Then she de-camped to Zurich to take up her first post as a film editor, and later moved on to New York where she had a successful career editing commercials. Her special talent for matching music with images was soon discovered and appreciated. And from there she went on to edit music videos and music documentaries – the work she loved most – for some big names in the popular music scene.
It was during this high-powered, fast-lane phase of her life that Georgia began to practice yoga. A film editor’s work involves long hours at the computer – shifts of twelve hours or more when there are deadlines to meet! Georgia discovered that her meditative yoga practice helped her body to deal with this strain. She also found that her experience of Osho’s meditations allowed her mind let go of distracting thoughts, so she could stay longer in the moment, keeping a fresh eye for the images, and a fresh ear for the sound tracks she was working with.
She met her partner, Mick, in New York, and after their second baby was born in 2001, they left Manhattan and moved to Barcelona – only just in time as they’d been living close to the World Trade Center! The theme of death, however, entered her life by a different route when her closest friend, Sylvia, developed cancer. Accompanying her through the stages of her cancer journey until she finally passed was a grueling emotional experience for Georgia. But what comforted her during this dark time, and gave her the strength to support Sylvia, were Deva Premal & Miten’s and Lama Gyurme’s mantra CDs. Georgia says she listened to them all the time, and the chanting brought her into a space in which it seemed the insurmountable barrier between life and death just melted away leaving a deep peace and harmony.
In 2011, when Deva Premal and Miten came to Spain for the first time, Georgia traveled to Madrid to see them ‘live’. And it was the space of loving, meditative group energy at this concert that touched her so profoundly she felt a strong urge to capture it in a film. By that time she’d been involved in co-producing several films, but it would be her first film venture as director and producer.
On researching the world of mantra chanting, she discovered its importance as a growing social phenomenon in the West. Deva Premal and Miten were among the biggest names together with other popular stars such as Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, MC Yogi and Jai Uttal. They were popularizing their own Western versions of traditional Indian kirtan and mantras, often drawing not hundreds but thousands of people into concert halls and outdoor venues to be inspired to chant together.
The film was not easy to script. Georgia soon realized that beautiful images and music alone were not enough to hold an audience’s attention during a full-length documentary. So she began to interview participants at these gatherings. They told her about the many beneficial effects they’d experienced through chanting, and some even claimed that chanting had ‘saved their lives’. After this the emphasis of the film switched from charting the growth of the movement to chanting’s healing potential. A neuroscientist was interviewed who contributes some interesting findings concerning the physical effects chanting has on the brain.
By now Georgia had realized the power of devotional chanting to create positive social change. And the transformative effect of spreading peace and harmony in the world through coming together to chant became the film’s take-away message.
Altogether the film took eight years from the first inspiration to complete, and during this time Georgia and the crew members – among them the renowned yoga photographer and co-director Wari Om – traveled to many different countries, filming chanting events and interviewing the leading singers. These included a chanting group inside the walls of St Quentin’s high security prison, and a drug recovery center in Portland, Maine.
The film had its world premiere in May 2017 at the Illuminate Film Festival in Arizona where it won the Director’s Choice Award. Two weeks later it won the World Documentary Award at the Maui Film Festival. It then premiered in Germany where it was enthusiastically received, and where there have now been cinema showings in over fifty towns and cities. The premiere in Moscow was attended by 600 people, and when it premiered in India at the Rishikesh Internation Film Festival it won the first prize – the Best of the Fest award. Up to now it’s premiered in fourteen different countries, and everywhere has been highly praised.
Amongst the many positive reviews is one by Deepak Chopra who called it, “A beautiful film which captures the spirit of a movement that is now spreading across the world. Mantra is a must-see for anyone who wants to pause and take a look within.” And here’s a statement by Ram Dass, who after watching it simply said, “This film fed my soul”, while Tara Brach recommends it in these words: “This film overflows with life and love – it offers a precious pathway from head to heart.”
The final scene shows a mantra chanting session in Corfu, with a wide shot from above of a group led by Deva Premal and Miten. It’s taking place in the open air in a beautiful natural setting. There, as the last vibrations of sound dissolve away, silence descends and for some minutes a special sacred space is created uniting all and everything in blissful union.
So, if my review has whetted your appetite and you’d like to go to a screening of Mantra: Sounds into Silence, or buy the DVD or Digital Download, please visit www.mantramovie.com where you can find information about showings and availabilities.
Review by Phoebe Wyss (Ma Phoebe)
Mantra – Sounds into Silence – Atmo Georgia talks about her project in the making – 31 May 2015