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SHORTCUT TO NIRVANA

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Every 12 years, tens of millions Hindus convene in Allahabad, India, for Kumbh Mela, a religious festival believed to be hyper-charged spiritually, because of fortuitous astral alignments and the proximity to the sacred Ganges River. Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day's rough but still engaging documentary captures just fragments of the mega-event, choosing to view the kaleidoscope of sounds, sights and swamis through the eyes of a two first-time Westerners. Despite admonishments from participants, the film can't resist lingering over the festival's more colorful characters, who flamboyantly demonstrate their spirituality -- being buried or enjoying the proverbial bed of nails. Curiously, the voice unheard in this film is that of the ordinary Indian citizen, one of the estimated 30 to 70 million who attend the event. On the upside, the film reputedly comes with built-in blessings for its audience courtesy of several of the spiritual leaders featured. In English, and Hindi with subtitles. (AH)

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