Eye For Film >> Movies >> Tantric Tourists (2009) Film Review
Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall
Sweet, short and colourful, Alexander Snelling's Tantric Tourists is the perfect antidote to those still reeling from heavier documentaries such as Inside Job. Blending an Indian road movie with a peek inside the spiritual tourist industry, this documentary offers up a agreeable mix of gorgeous locations, oddball characters and a few pertinent observations about India and its tourist trade today.
Tantric Tourists was born from a chance meeting between the Slack Alice Films documentary team and American tantra teacher Laurie Handlers in a hotel several years earlier. Literally bowled over by her exuberant and busy personality, they vowed to follow her on one of her 'Tantric Tours' of India. On such group tours, Handlers promises to expose her students to the exoticism and history of India, while teaching them breath work, energy clearing, moving meditation, and various other tantric techniques to transform their lives. If performing the “Cobra Breath” technique in front of the Taj Mahal or by the side of the Ganges sounds like a neat idea, this might be the tour for you.
Following Laurie as the tour begins, we are introduced to her equally eclectic group of students/tourists. They are an intriguing collection of searchers - among them is Randall, the true American consumer who is a Indian street hawkers dream, biochemist and true tantra devotee Delwood, and Catherine who has the somewhat laboured job title of “actress/model/administrator”. Sceptics might raise eyebrows at both their motivations and the validity of the promise of tantric practices , but it's impossible not to warm to the group's earnest attempts to try and their wide-eyed observations of modern India (none have been there before). This holds true even when members of the group finds themselves performing the type of tantric rituals that makes them appear to be imitating a squawking chicken while in their tour bus seats. It helps that the documentary is accompanied by a dead-pan narration.
If there is a 'star' of the film, it is Laurie Handlers, one of today's true earth children who has had about 50 different jobs in just as many places throughout her life. Regardless of how crazy her techniques might seem to the agnostic, she laces everything she does or says with a tireless sense of humour that makes her surprisingly likeable.
The film crew does a good job of getting down and dirty with the group, sticking with them along the tight corridors of Indian trains, on the gruelling 14-hour bus journeys, and floating up the river Ganges past crowds of bathers. Shot guerilla-style with minimal equipment and in just nine days, the film captures with aplomb some of the more spectacular locations on the Indian tourist trail, including Varanasi and Pushkar. The crew also captures some of the group's more emotional and thoughtful moments, such as when they leave behind their breathing techniques and relentless shopping and spend some time in an Indian village off the beaten track.
Tantric Tourists doesn't delve too deep into either Indian culture and history or the practice of tantra, and does feel at times like a TV mockumentary, but there is still plenty to enjoy.Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2011