One of our current interns, Celine Wright, obtained an early screener of the film from Kimball's manager Matt Stevens, and wrote the following review.
All words are hers, not mine.
If you care to view the film's trailer first, click below:
“Yoga is an ancient tradition ... To bring peace and enlightenment to men,” says narrator Annette Bening, with incredible emphasis on that last word.
Yoga and men.
It’s not what first comes to mind, especially when the modern, stereotypical yoga-doer seems to be a woman. And that opening line is the stepping-off point for the new documentary Yogawoman, a look at how yoga has positively influenced women of all backgrounds and ages, written, directed and produced by Kate Clere McIntyre and Saraswati Clere.
First, they frame the problem. Modern society has left us overworked, overstressed, overbusy and generally unhealthy. Cue the factoids: One in five women will be depressed over their lifetime, 90 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Yoga is framed as the ultimate escape for women, “looking to find peace and balance in their ordinary lives.” Through yoga, you can overcome these menial, society-instilled problems and can discover who you really are.
The film talks about the emergence of yoga in modern society, starting in the 1970s when yoga “workouts” were broadcast on TV. Now, more than 20 million people in the United States practice. And Yogawoman focuses on how women use yoga, as most of us know it today, to positively impact their lives.
They introduce us to a few big names in the yoga world, each bringing to light a different aspect of yoga and its importance in the lives of women.
Teacher Sean Corne, who has her own yoga DVD’s, and has been featured in countless magazines, started a nonprofit called Off The Mat, Into the World, where she uses her public acclaim to help promote awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis. She takes what she “learned on the mat” (values like strength, focus and compassion) and “applies it in the world, where it really counts.” During her film segment, we are taken to a village in Uganda where Corne and her foundation have raised the funds to build a new birthing center in a town where all the women are HIV-positive.
We’re introduced to Tari Prinster, a New York yoga teacher, who used the practice to help get through her breast cancer treatments. Now in remission, she says yoga provided a way to, “feel good in spite of chemo,” she says. Yoga increases lymphatic flow and therefore strengthens the immune system, which helps cancer patients feel better, despite brutal treatments. Prinster teaches classes to other women undergoing treatment, as a way to both combat the illness, and be surrounded by other survivors.
As the stories are told, you get the sense that filmmakers must have gathered hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage — so much that the finished product suffers a bit from attention-deficit disorder. Back and forth we jump from story to story; you just want to say, "Stop! Can't we stay here for a little while?" Besides that, there are parts of the film that are cheesy: shots of sunsets, and beach walks, breaks where words like “empowerment” and “strength” are superimposed along the contours of a woman’s body as she does yoga.
But it's hard to be too critical of a film that ultimately frames yoga as a way for women to come together, and feel better about themselves. In California, we see a yoga class for overweight women who may have given up doing other physical activities; the class gives them comfort and reassurance. And even if those things fall a bit short of full spiritual enlightenment, as sought in the ancient Hindu tradition of yoga practice (and all but ignored in this film), they're valuable nonetheless.
The women in the film seem like normal people who live in today’s high-paced society, and simply want to share what helps them cope with life’s daily stresses. It's a nice message, regardless of the more technically annoying aspects of Yogawoman.