(July 28, 2011 in Topanga, California) Long known as a setting to alter mind and spirit, the village of Topanga Canyon staged its seventh annual Film Festival of screenings, panels, and exhibits with an infusion of neuroscience technology under the heading "Filmmaking Isn’t Brain Surgery…Or Is It?”
The astounding MyndPlay media player demoed in the Topanga Canyon Gallery allowed the manipulation of video through concentration while wearing the NeuroSky headset. Whether visualizing the archer’s arrow aimed at a target, or imagining choices car thieves must make on a getaway, the future of Myndplay suggests interactive theater experiences with the collective consciousness of audiences determining which direction the plot will take. Mind-blowing!
From high-tech to highest ideals, the TFF ‘Wisdom of Storytelling’ panel featured Lakota chief Golden Light Eagle in full headdress, speaking to an audience in an outdoor amphitheater at the Ribbit Tree Nursery. “It’s a time of knowing versus thinking,” challenged the chief. “Tell a story about purpose and responsibility. Open your mind to what a screenplay can be, and allow it to speak truths.” The follow-up discussion got colorful, with many participants taking to the stage to share their own thoughts on enlightened movie-making which must come ‘from the heart.’
The call for higher consciousness in filmmaking held true at the very sold-out world premiere of opening night film The Highest Pass. The enthralling documentary tells a tale of seven Americans following their daredevil young yogi on a harrowing motorcycle trek across the highest road in the world in the breathtaking Indian Himalayas. Opening with a quote from the yogi Anand Mehrotra: “Only the one who dies truly lives,” we’re given the opportunity to explore the essence of that philosophy while experiencing the inner and outer challenges of the determined, sometimes scared, and always brave riders. “You must first go into the fire to come out gold,” says Anand, citing wisdom as inspiration for the harrowing journey. The Highest Pass is a wild ride of a film with spectacular cinematography, charismatic characters, mystical messaging, and an uplifting soundtrack featuring the renowned Jon Anderson (YesAsia) on the title song. It was an exciting event reuniting many cast and crew members with Anand, visiting from his home in Rishikesh, India.
Topanga always knows how to throw a party, and the opening day of TFF wrapped in style on the grounds of Jalan Jalan Balinese Imports. Great lighting of the iconic coyote logo splashed on rocky walls of the outdoor setting by Owls Falls, with a DJ packing the dance floor with YouTube hit du jour “Whole Foods Parking Lot.” Filmmakers and film patrons drank wine, played with Tibetan singing bowls amongst boulders on amethyst in the gallery, and discussed everything from astrology to what films they’d be seeing over the rest of the weekend.
Befitting of a festival which is dedicated to promoting culture and community through creative storytelling, this year’s kick-off of the Topanga Film Festival took it a step further, exploring the highest reaches of the mind and spirit as we experience those stories, all brought to you in a setting invoking a natural high all its own!
The Topanga Film Festival took place from July 28 to July 31, 2011 in Topanga, California.