Who Owns Yoga? is a documentary feature film project by Bhanu Bhatnagar, a yoga teacher and journalist, with filmmakers Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carleton. The film explores the changing nature of yoga in modern society, the innovations and hybridizations, and the challenges of commercialization as yoga businesses try to own a piece of this ever popular ancient practice.
Yoga is everywhere. It has become an international phenomenon and is practiced by millions of people around the world.And it has become an immense and thriving business, valued at billions of dollars.
The rapid spread, and commercialization of yoga, raises a lot of questions of cultural and financial ownership, of lineage and evolution, of the physical and spiritual elements of yoga.
We explore these challenging questions through a host of fascinating characters, from leading yoga practitioners, to those who have transformed yoga into something they no longer even call yoga.
On June 21st this year the world will mark the first-ever International Day of Yoga, as promoted by the Indian government. We think it’s a great time to add to the global conversation about yoga’s place in society, how it is evolving, how it is changing, and what that means for yoga, and future students of yoga.
We developed this film as a 48-minute piece for Al Jazeera English’s award-winning Correspondent Series. We spent six months traveling and filming for Who Owns Yoga? in the US, the UK and India.The subject was so vast and the characters we spoke to so compelling, we realized there is a need for a longer and more comprehensive film. And we want as many people as possible to see it, which we feel we can accomplish by having it screened at film festivals and other locations internationally.
The filming is done, and now we are focused on editing all of that material into a 90-minute version. We will use the money raised on Kickstarter to pay for the editing, post-production and festival submission fees.
In the 90 minute film, we are creating extended scenes as well as adding new scenes that we didn't have space to include in the shorter television version. You will meet new characters who talk about the spiritual aspects of yoga, as well as the rise of the yoga selfie and an obsession with the body beautiful. We also explore Indian identity and yoga culture in the west. Plus special appearances from Russell Brand and Deepak Chopra.
As we were working on our television documentary, we encountered so many fascinating yoga teachers, yoga practioners and people working in the yoga space with a lot to say and different points of view.The more we learned, the more questions we had.
We would love your help to get us through post-production, to get the film into festivals around the world and create a buzz about the issues and question that arise from the film.
Yoga is very much about community, and so is Kickstarter. It is the ideal place for us to reach out to yoga communities, friends and the many people interested in yoga around the world. Together with your help we can get the film to a wider audience and spark compelling debate about yoga in the modern age.
It will take three months to edit the material we have into a 90-minute feature.We will be submitting that to film festivals this summer, and look forward to having people see the documentary in festivals around the world later this year and next year.
Bhanu Bhatnagar is a journalist and yoga practitioner and instructor. He writes his own blog for the Huffington Post and has more than 9 years of experience working in the TV news business, producing and reporting from around the world, including London, Doha, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Istanbul. Born to Indian parents in Sweden, he's spent most of his life in Europe, though he maintains strong links with India. He began practicing yoga while living in London and completed his teacher training in Thailand. He now practices and teaches yoga in Qatar. Over the years he deepened his practice with a number of teachers from India and around the world. Because of Bhanu’s East-West background and his international experience of yoga, the question of yoga’s roots and cultural ownership has always resonated with him.
Micah Garen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Four Corners Media. He has been working as an independent journalist for the past 14 years and he has reported from around the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and Egypt. Micah’s film for Al Jazeera English’s Correspondent series, Identity & Exile, won a Golden Nymph award for Best News Documentary at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in 2014. His films, photography and writing have appeared in film festivals, on television and online, with publications including the New York Times, Vanity Fair and Newsweek.He filmed the “Christmas Eve Raid” scene in Iraq that was part of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, the top-grossing documentary of all time and winner of the prestigious Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. With Marie-Helene, he is at work on several feature length films from Iraq and Afghanistan. He also practices yoga, when he is not drawing childrens’ books about his dog.
Marie-Hélène Carleton is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and co-founder of Four Corners Media. Most recently, she has directed three documentaries for Al Jazeera English, one of which won Best News Documentary at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in 2014. Her film work has appeared on television and online with HDNet’s World Report, BBC America, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Financial Times and Granta Magazine. She is also a yoga practioner and recently returned from a yoga retreat in Puerto Rico.
Risks and challenges
Happily, we have a clear path to the finish line at this point, since we have filmed everything and already edited a 48 minute television version. We are very confident that with your help we will have a 90-minute festival film. Our biggest risk is not getting into festivals once the film is edited, and that is a risk all films face. We will be applying to 20-30 festivals to mitigate that risk, and looking for every opportunity to share this film as widely as possible, including yoga festivals, so please reach out to us with any suggestions or invitations on that front!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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