September 7th, 2008

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Mystic India" explains the journey of Neelkanth

At the start of the Gulf War, circa 1991, I was teaching high school seniors. As we discussed this first conflict with Saddam Hussein, one of my students proclaimed;
"We should fight those rag heads the way we fought the Vietnam War!"
After explaining to this student that the United States did not win the Vietnam War (No fault of our military), I asked the student to explain to me who the "rag heads" were. The student replied, "Any of those people who work at the mini mart." Obviously we had a discussion about bigotry and prejudice. We also discussed the differences between Asia and the Middle East and the differences between the Sunni, Shite, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist religions, something I learned in Mark Wilcox's 6th Grade Social Studies class. The student was not impressed. On this seventh year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I often wonder if my former student ever learned anything about cultural in seventeen years.

The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science has created an opportunity to learn about other cultures with a special screening of **Mystic India** and **India Kingdom of the Tiger.** Seen on the IMAX sixty foot screen, these double feature documentaries present a beautiful travel guide. The stone craftsmanship rivals the work of Michelangelo. The sun is always shiny and the flowers are in full bloom.

Both **Mystic India** and **India Kingdom of the Tiger** follow similar narrative structures. Both films follow a central protagonist and explains their connection to India. **Mystic India** reviews the life of Neelkanth, an 11 year old who heard the call of the holy spirit. Barefoot for the journey, Neelkanth spent the next seven years of his life walking thousand miles and visiting religious shrines in India. At the end of his journey, Neelkanth meets an established Yogi, who claims that the young man is the chosen one. Set in the late 18th century, Neelkanth teaches his followers that through discipline and thoughtful actions, peace and harmony can be achieved.

In contrast, **Mystic India** makes the mundane life of a young Yogi, exciting. The barefoot Neelkanth seems to walk into one colorful parade after another. Like Jim Corbett, Neelkanth has an encounter with a big cat, this time a large lion. Despite the fears of the villagers and the local religious leaders, Neelkanth makes peace with the king of the beasts. *Mystic India** leisurely narrative makes these sequences stand out. **Mystic India** also benefits from Peter O'Toole narration.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"India Kingdom of the Tiger" does not create much sympathy for the big cat

At the start of the Gulf War, circa 1991, I was teaching high school seniors. As we discussed this first conflict with Saddam Hussein, one of my students proclaimed;
"We should fight those rag heads the way we fought the Vietnam War!"
After explaining to this student that the United States did not win the Vietnam War (No fault of our military), I asked the student to explain to me who the "rag heads" were. The student replied, "Any of those people who work at the mini mart." Obviously we had a discussion about bigotry and prejudice. We also discussed the differences between Asia and the Middle East and the differences between the Sunni, Shite, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist religions, something I learned in Mark Wilcox's 6th Grade Social Studies class. The student was not impressed. On this seventh year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I often wonder if my former student ever learned anything about cultural in seventeen years.


Of the two movies, **India Kingdom of the Tiger** is the weakest. While there are some great shots of a Tiger prowling the countryside, one is haunted by the beast eating a innocent bystander (off screen, of course). The scene is jarring. At forty minutes, the narrative is rushed and the climax seems padded. As **India Kingdom of the Tiger** concludes, one feels like they are watching stock footage of street people.

Both **Mystic India** and **India Kingdom of the Tiger** are worthy of the Museum of Discovery's 2nd Annual American Heritage Series. For ambitious social study teachers, a field trip to the Museum of Discovery may prove to be an enlightening experience.