June 28, 2011
Last updated: July 01, 2011
Top 10 Reviewer - View all my reviews
This extraordinarily uplifting documentary probes to the heart of what it takes to be happy. Executive Producer Randy Taran saw that the levels of depression and suicide among teenagers like her own daughter are skyrocketing, and set out to create some materials – a movie and a handbook – to help teens, teachers, parents and youth-workers understand the issues better and discover new perspectives that can lead to the kind of positive choices that lead to a happier life. You’ll be shocked by the statistics in the film!
The filmmakers found three gifted teachers full of dedication and passion to collaborate on the project. One is from an independent school in Santa Cruz, California. The second, Emmanuel, the founder of the Creative Minds International Academy in Nigeria, was particularly impressive. He struggles daily to counterbalance the hopelessness and violence that are so rife in his country. The third teacher works with Tibetan refugee children, sent by their families to India so they could survive and retain their identity.
The narrative starts with the stories of four California teens and the heavy emotional burdens they each carry. As they explore the question of “what is the source of happiness?” they meet with people like neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson, and George Lucas, the creator of the all-knowing Yoda in the Star Wars epics. They fly to New York to meet with actor Richard Gere in preparation for a trip to India to ask their questions of the Dalai Lama.
They begin to form bonds with the young people in Africa and India through email and video, and when they finally meet face to face, they discover that their similarities completely eclipse their cultural differences.
The meeting with the Dalai Lama is an emotional high for participant and viewer alike. He tells them and us that a happy life for an individual depends on community. When we are able to trust each other we can find harmony in our lives and build a happier society. He does not ignore the reality of bullying, and says to take appropriate countermeasures, but to try to find the non-violent way.
When asked how to be happy, he answered, “I don’t know.” The answer can only be found within. The core is compassion, honesty and a sense of community. Anything that is not shared, diminishes – like love. We have a choice though. We can choose to be happier, and then those thoughts ripple out around us. These are the lessons these amazing young people learned and have shared with all of us.
P.S. Bring tissues - tears, whether of compassion or joy, will come.