Nearly everyone who loves movies knows what it's like to discover a treasure of a film -- one that's so good, so mind-expanding, so heart-stirring, it comes across as a revelation.
Those are the kind of films that capture the attention of C. Shaffia Laue, a holistic psychiatrist based in Lawrence.
In fact, she's always on the lookout for them.
"There are three reasons I go to a movie. If it has really wonderful scenery, where the beauty of nature is laid out. Or if it's really funny and makes me laugh, (and) I get a good endorphin release. Or if it has a story that really moves me. All of those things make us feel connected," Laue says.
These days, there seem to be plenty of people who share Laue's taste in movies that inspire, uplift and enlighten.
She's among a growing audience for an emerging genre of film that's been dubbed "spiritual cinema" -- movies that deal with subjects such as the true nature of reality ("What the BLEEP Do We Know!?"), mystical experiences ("Whalerider") and enhanced human potential ("Phenomenon").
It's a trend that has taken hold in Lawrence, where a new group -- the Spiritual Cinema Soul Circle of Lawrence-Topeka -- was recently formed as a community where people can view and then discuss the latest examples of this kind of film.
The group is also sponsoring two screenings of the new theatrical release "Indigo," about a child gifted with intuitive and healing powers, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.
The low-budget, independent feature film opens Saturday in 88 AMC Theaters across the country, as well as at screenings offered this weekend by more than 500 churches and other groups in 49 states and 35 countries, according to the film's official Web site, www.indigothemovie.com.
Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane, also will play host to a 6 p.m. screening of "Indigo" Sunday.
Heartened by response
Gail Zukov-Ross got the idea to form the film-enthusiast group in November, as soon as she learned about a new Web site, the Spiritual Cinema Circle (www.spiritualcinemacircle.com).
Subscribers to the DVD club receive three to five features and shorts that have a spiritual, inspirational or metaphysical message in the mail each month, for a $21 monthly fee.
|"Spiritual cinema," an emerging genre of film, encompasses movies thathave a strong spiritual, inspirational or metaphysical message.Members of the Spiritual Cinema Soul Circle of Lawrence-Topeka, a groupthat gathers twice monthly to view and discuss such movies together,offered the following films as good examples of this genre:¢ "Ghost"¢ "Field of Dreams"¢ "Groundhog Day"¢ "Truly, Madly, Deeply"¢ "The Matrix"¢ "Cocoon"¢ "Phenomenon"¢ "Somewhere in Time"¢ "It's a Wonderful Life"¢ "Whalerider"To learn more about films with heart and soul, visit the Web site atwww.spiritualcinemacircle.com.|
The movies are typically low-profile projects that have been well-received at film festivals around the country but haven't gotten mainstream attention.
The online service encourages members to form locally based spiritual cinema communities, where they can gather with friends and family to share the films.
"I immediately was interested. I thought, 'Who do I know who is really into spirituality and is a people connector?'" Zukov-Ross says.
She called her longtime friend, Keith Stetling, a Topekan, who, like her, has spent years exploring human consciousness, and they organized the Spiritual Cinema Soul Circle of Lawrence-Topeka.
The group meets once a month in the homes of Lawrence-area members, as well as monthly at Unity Church of Topeka.
Anywhere from 15 to 20 people have shown up on a given night to view the latest films sent by the Web-based DVD club of which Zukov-Ross and Stetling share a subscription.
There are also about 100 people on the circle's e-mail list who receive announcements.
The group's gatherings are free, and anyone is welcome to participate. But tickets for the two screenings Sunday of "Indigo" cost $10.
The response to the group's formation has heartened Zukov-Ross.
"This community is so ready. People want to know about spiritual cinema; they like the idea. The American public, whatever their spiritual beliefs, are sick and tired of the steady diet we've been getting out of Hollywood," she says.
"We certainly see a growing interest. People know it's something they want to explore. It's compelling for them."
Body, mind, spirit
The term "spiritual cinema" might seem a bit nebulous to many people. So Zukov-Ross attempts an explanation.
"It's any form of film entertainment that leaves you a little bit more aware of what it means to be human than you were before you saw it," she says.
"It could include violent films, like 'The Matrix.' It could include films that are absolutely silly and ridiculous. It can involve comedy, documentaries of remarkable feats. It's anything that makes you grow in who you are."
Stetling puts it another way.
|The Spiritual Cinema Soul Circle of Lawrence-Topeka is sponsoring two screenings of "Indigo," a film about a child gifted with intuitive and healing powers, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane, also will screen "Indigo" at 6 p.m. Sunday.|
"It's anything that helps us look at who we are and why we're here. In my case, traditional religion hasn't answered those questions," he says.
"Film is one of the most powerful ways to inspire people. I'm thinking of the movie 'Philadelphia' (about a gay man dying of AIDS) and how it inspired me to be more accepting and loving."
Bob Nunley, a retired Kansas University professor who participates in the spiritual cinema group, shares his view of what this genre of film is all about.
"It's cinema that's devoted to uplifting characteristics that recognize that, as human beings, we are not just a body. Movies that overtly acknowledge the spiritual dimension of human existence," he says. "We are, indeed, body, mind and spirit."