The enlightened mind Awakened Film Fest promises three full days of life-changing films

 "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago" is an up-close look at the ancient spiritual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. Since the 9th century, millions have embarked on this pilgrimage across northern Spain.

“Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” is an up-close look at the ancient spiritual pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James. Since the 9th century, millions have embarked on this pilgrimage across northern Spain.

Ten years ago, the documentary “What the Bleep Do We Know?” bundled together quantum physics and spirituality, brought in a slew of modern thinkers and went from an outsider documentary to a rousing success. Since then, the market for consciousness-raising films has expanded. So it makes sense that the Awakened World International Film Festival — a three-day combination film festival and conference — would honor the decade anniversary of this film. Executive director Barbara Fields also says our location also makes sense:

“We’ve done about 20 of these conferences in the same amount of years, all over the world,” she says. “But we picked Santa Barbara for this event because there’s an element here that somehow goes unappreciated, or is relegated to the ‘new age’, but this is a highly spiritual town.”

Jeff Bridges in "A Place at the Table" Magnolia Pictures
Jeff Bridges in “A Place at the Table”
Magnolia Pictures
The festival shares similarities with other fests: a jam-packed schedule, multiple screening locations, Q&A sessions with directors and stars, after parties. But it also features something the others lack: time to discuss the film with others in post-film workshops.

“At a lot of film festivals, after it finishes, you don’t get to talk to people, you don’t get to build communities, you don’t get a chance to unpack it when you’re done. But in this case, we’ve been working with the filmmakers and then with the audience to include a mindfulness… It’s a very immersive conference.”

Each of the three screening days is split into three categories: Spirit, Society, and Self, with a movie playing in each of three locations. And with no repeats that means attendees will have to make some tough decisions. (See below for the full screening schedule).

However, Monday night’s opening is pure celebration, and similar to the following three days’ after parties: an evening of music, awards and inspirational talks.

“Our organization is well known for having great live music, so our parties will be off the charts,” Ms. Fields gleefully says. Tuesday night is “World Peace Night,” Wednesday night is “What the Bleep”‘s 10th anniversary, and Thursday is “The Stage of Aquarius” closing gala.

Unlike most festivals, every single director from every single film will be represented, along with other major representatives. That includes Jeff Bridges, who has helped in the film “A Place at the Table,” and actor Michael Imperioli, whose film “The Hungry Ghosts” shows on Tuesday. “He’s not known as a director, but this is a brilliant, stunning film,” Ms. Fields says. Local director Kara Rhodes will be bringing a group of indigenous elders to speak about her film on tribal wisdom “Bridgewalkers.”

Because she’s worked on this festival for months and reached out from the beginning, the festival is already solidly booked, but there are tickets still available.

“Marketing the event mirrors the event itself,” Ms. Fields says. “It’s all alternative media and word of mouth.”

Tuesday’s films

“The Power of the Heart”: Drew Heriot’s doc features Eckhart Tolle, Maya Angelou, and Deepak Chopra talking about using love to change the world.

“From Light to Life”: Elena Mannes traces the history of spiritual healing up to the present day.

“Enemy of the Reich”: The true story of Noor Inayat Khan, an Indian woman who escaped the Nazis and returned to occupied Paris as an undercover agent.

“Project Happiness”: Children interview folks like George Lucas, Richard Gere, Richard Davidson and the Dalai Lama and ask, “What is happiness?”

“SLOMO”: The true story of Dr. John Kitchin, who gave up his career in the medical field and found his happiness rollerskating on the Venice Beach boulevard.

“Wake Up”: Jonas Elrod woke up one day to find he could see and hear angels, demons, auras and ghosts. Yet doctors gave him a clean bill of health. In his quest to find out what’s happening, he traverses the country’s spiritual culture.

“Following the Ninth: In The Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony” follows the history of this famous work of art, written by the composer as he gazed into the abyss, and how it has become a signifier of protest and hope.

“The Hungry Ghosts”: Michael Imperioli’s debut feature is a fiction film about a group of New Yorkers trying to forge spiritual and emotional connections in the city.

Wednesday’s films

“People vs. the State of Illusion”: Scott Cervine interviews neuroscientists, biochemists, psychologists and others about this thing we call “reality.” Does it really exist and can we change it?

“Under the Same Sun”: A doc about two entrepreneurs — one Palestinian, one Israeli — who set up a solar energy business in their home country.

“Animal Communicator”: Anna Breytenbach claims she is a modern Doctor Doolittle, who can actually talk to animals and understand when they talk back, from monkeys to leopards.

“Secrets, Dreams, Faith & Wonder”: Stephen Pope’s feature-length abstract music video, filled with text and following a five-part structure.

“Every Three Seconds”: After the Haiti earthquake of 2010, a London boy raises money to bike to Haiti.

“What the Bleep Do We Know”: The doc that started it all, combining a story with interviews and graphics and trying to understand the malleable nature of reality.

Thursday’s films

“Bridgewalkers”: Kara Rhodes’ doc witnesses the gathering in Greenland of Tribal Leaders from around the world.

“Money and Life”: Is our current financial crisis also an opportunity to change how we think about money? Katie Teague investigates.

“Walking the Camino”: The Camino de Santiago stretches across Spain and has long been considered a path to take for spiritual enlightenment. Directed by Lydia Smith.

“Messages of Hope”: A portrait of Commander Suzanne Giesemann, former aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff during 9/11, who had a life-changing moment through a personal family tragedy.

“Admissions”: A short film starring James Cromwell as a clerk in the admissions room in the afterlife, dealing with an Israeli and a Palestinian both trying to enter Heaven.

“A Place at the Table”: Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush question why one in four children in America deal with hunger, when we are the wealthiest country in the world.

“Dying to Know”: A portrait of a friendship that expanded the boundaries of conscience: Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert aka Ram Dass.

Awakened World International Film Festival Retreat
When: 2 p.m Monday-10 p.m. Thursday
Where: Various locations
Cost: Various prices, $40-$525

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