John Griesser's film about Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Krishna movement, is not so much a documentary as it is a hagiography. In 1965, the soft-spoken 70-year-old pharmacist, his children grown, left his wife in India and arrived in New York City, where a cadre of discontented hippies was primed to hear his message of getting high through the hare krishna mantra (popularized with the help of celebrities and counterculture leaders such as George Harrison, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary). The sheet-clad, street-dancing, flowers-in-the-airport crusade spread west from New York, to San Francisco and beyond, and the Krishnas remain a global group.
While the film notes that U.S. courts rejected the "cult" label when ruling in cases brought by worried parents of the time, director John Griesser interviews only those still loyal to the Swami and none of the apostates who today describe a decidedly cultlike life of servitude and the loss of human agency. The movie brims with bland platitudes, and somehow the guru's followers, including Joshua Greene (aka Yogesvara Das), seem unaware that the movement has been reduced to a distant memory. "He understood what could happen if the chanting of 'hare krishna' made its appearance on a world stage," Greene says. "It's a cleansing of the collective consciousness of society that can unleash all kinds of amazing transformations." Can it? If so, that's not clear from this film.
John GriesserSrila PrabhupadaJohn GriesserAbramorama