Redefining the World Around Us

Is the reality before our eyes everything there is? Many of us have come to believe that, almost with an unshakable certainty. But is that view correct? If so, then what are we to make of anomalies involving phenomena we’d be quick to label extraordinary, inexplicable or even paranormal? Those are among the mysteries deftly examined in the inventive, engaging metaphysical drama, “The Wisdom Tree” (web site, trailer), available on DVD and Blu-ray disk.

Skillfully bringing together multiple story lines, the film opens with what seems like a straightforward accident investigation that quickly escalates into an exploration of life’s deeper issues, probing matters as fundamental as the very nature of existence. This is brought about through the seemingly unrelated but uncannily (and appropriately) entangled relationships of neuroscientist Dr. Trisha Rao (Sheetal Sheth), quantum physicist Steve Hamilton (Patrick Alparone) and FBI agent Mike Parker (Eric Holter). Through their remarkable, synchronistic interactions, these unlikely seekers dive deeply into questions related to the building blocks of reality and the state of human evolution, all with staggering and revelatory ramifications.

Quantum physicist Steve Hamilton (Patrick Alparone, left) and neuroscientist Dr. Trisha Rao (Sheetal Sheth, right) embark on a remarkable journey of discovery into the nature of reality in the insightful metaphysical drama, “The Wisdom Tree.” Photo courtesy of The Wisdom Tree, LLC.

Unlike many other films that attempt to tackle subject matter such as this, “The Wisdom Tree” succeeds beautifully at weaving its philosophical concepts into the main narrative without being obvious, awkward or intrusive. In doing so, the picture skillfully gets its points across without interrupting the flow of the story or becoming bogged down in jargon or vague platitudes. It also adeptly illustrates the many parallels between scientific and spiritual disciplines, fields of study that are essentially two sides of the same coin and not the antagonistic opposites they’ve long been thought to be.

For those seeking answers of their own, this film – though a work of fiction – may nevertheless shed valuable light on finding one’s own way. Existence may prove to be far different – and far more incredible – than any of us may have imagined. And “The Wisdom Tree” shows us how, entertaining and enlightening us along the way.

Cinematic Power Tools

Power. The word itself inspires a range of impressions, from intimidation to awe to a tool we can use to manifest a range of envisioned outcomes and conceptions. But what is it really? Movies can help provide us clues. Find out more by reading “Managing Our Personal Power,” my latest article in the Conscious Cinema series of New Consciousness Review magazine, available by clicking here.

Sad Enough for You? 

Were this year’s Academy Award nominees for best picture too depressing? Some pundits seem to think so. But I have a different take on things. Read my blog on the subject, “Why So Sad?”, available by clicking here.

The Best of Movies with Meaning – “The Music of Strangers”

Art is a powerful force. It inspires. It defines us, both individually and collectively. And it can serve as a potent means of promoting understanding, making ourselves known and stating our resolve to others, both friends and foes alike. Those are the qualities that have emerged – and blossomed – from one of music’s most inventive, uplifting creative projects of the past 16 years, the subject of the jubilant documentary, “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” (web site, trailer), currently airing on cable and also available on DVD and video on-demand.

Child prodigy cellist Yo-Yo Ma made a huge splash with his abilities at a tender young age. But, for all his abilities and fame, he felt somewhat unfulfilled. Indeed, as one colleague observed, Yo-Yo was a tremendous musician who nevertheless lacked a voice, and that’s what he needed to find.

As someone who had always taken a wider view of life than just his music, Yo-Yo looked for an undertaking that would somehow allow him to fuse his interests and talents. Having been inspired by lectures promoting cross-cultural musicological topics delivered by famed conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein while attending Harvard in the 1970s, as well as by writings on the same topic by his own father, Yo-Yo decided to tangibly expand on those theoretical ideas in 2000 by forming the Silk Road Ensemble. After conducting a global search to find the best musicians and composers from cultures all over the world, Yo-Yo brought them together for a collaborative musical “workshop” at Tanglewood, Massachusetts to see what emerged.

Critics abounded initially, scoffing at what they saw as an ill-conceived attempt at musical fusion, a sort of “cultural tourism” as they called it. And, admittedly, initial attempts to get things off the ground were somewhat shaky. But, as the musicians came to understand one another and their art, magic began to happen. The musical blends that arose from the combination of Western and indigenous talents produced fresh, vibrant new sounds never before heard.

The Silk Road Ensemble, one of the most inventive musical collaborations of recent years, celebrates its unique sound in “The Music of Strangers,” a documentary about its history and featured performers. Photo courtesy of

After that first session ended, the next logical question, of course, was “What’s next?” Was this a one-time fluke? Or was it something that needed to keep going, even if it lacked a definitive sense of direction? Yo-Yo and his collaborators got their answer on the morning of September 11, 2001.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of that fateful day, Yo-Yo and his fellow musicians realized they now had to keep going, that their art was a powerful weapon against tyranny, that it was needed now more than ever. The ensemble resolved to use their music to promote cross-cultural understanding at a time when it was likely to be in increasingly short supply. And 16 years later, after the release of six albums and performances to over 2 million people, Silk Road is still together and going stronger than ever, as evidenced by this documentary.

In addition to the ensemble’s history, the film includes the personal stories of several of its featured performers, including Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, Chinese pipa player Wu Man, Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor and Galician bagpipe artist Cristina Pato. Their diverse stories, sensibilities and aspirations for what they hope to achieve through their art are all moving and inspiring, prime examples of what Silk Road set out to achieve at its founding. Their individual and collective works demonstrate what it means to be a citizen not only of their own respective cultures, but also of the world itself.

“The Music of Strangers” is easily the best documentary I’ve seen in quite some time. This intimate, transcendent portrait of one of music’s most original and inventive ensembles showcases both the distinctive collaborative art it brings to the world, as well as the greater purpose it serves in fostering global, cross-cultural awareness. In addition to interviews with the featured artists, the film includes clips with friends and fans of the ensemble, such as composer John Williams and musician Bobby McFerrin. It’s easy to make a joyful noise about this euphoric cinematic offering, one whose music and inspiring enthusiasm are downright infectious. For those who believe in taking a global perspective, see this one by all means.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.