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Revisiting The Guru of EST

 

Friday, July 27--------In this 30th anniversary of the "1967 summer of love", one can wax nostalgic for the (naive) idealism of one's youth and the self-help movements of yore that focused on the internal transformation of the me-me-me. Among the most celebrated of these was EST, the philosophical treatise of transformational guru Werner Erhard, which exemplified the touchy-feely aesthetic of those wonder years. Now a new film appropriately titled TRANSFORMATION, revisits the life and legacy of Werner Erhard.....guru, showman, dictator, a man of contradictions and deep ambivalence. The film is having its world premiere this weekend at New York's Quad Cinema, where former EST-thetes can commune once again.

In his first public interview in more than a decade, Erhard (born Jack Rosenberg) breaks his long silence about his ideas, his life and his controversial program EST (short for Erhard Seminars Training, and not inconsequently the Latin verb "to be"). His philosophy for personal transformation, free love and material-cum-spiritual success became "the thing" to do for already self-involved celebrities and seekers of mystical resonance. Erhard could often be abusive or even downright brutal as he physically, mentally and spiritually broke down his audiences' resistances and opened their eyes and minds to "getting it" (as such understanding was referred to).

However, EST was also embraced outside of the Hollywood Hills and was one of the first self-help movements that fueled today's multi-billion dollar personal growth industry. With exclusive and rare footage, the film, directed by Robn Symon, brings viewers inside the controversial seminars and retreats, hear provocative interviews with participants, family members, and experts. With a now 30-year perspective, it has become clear how many of Erhard's ideas have been absorbed by the mainstream culture---in our language, advertising campaigns and in personal growth and even corporate motivational seminars.

People enrolled in EST to find what they seemed to be missing in their lives......direction, definition, expansion, clarity. Based on the film's interviews, they received much more.....a new definition of reality that served as the seed of what we know call New Age Spirituality. Symon, a two-time Emmy Award winner, brings the story up-to-date, interviewing the 70 year-old Erhard about some of the more controversial segments of his life....including his abandonment of his family, his conflicts with the Church of Scientology (considered a cult religion), his decision to leave the United States for what was a 15-year exile, and a now infamous television interview on 60 MINUTES, the premiere television news magazine program, that characterized Erhard as a huckster without formal training or certification who had brainwashed his gullible adherents. While the film ultimately defends the EST guru and tries to restore some balance to his story of popular decline (such is the fate of such movements anyway), it does reinforce the central tenet that the individual is responsible for the content and decisions that make up his or her life.

The film, which is being self-released, will next be seen in Los Angeles and in select cities around the country. Its largest audience could be in the dvd market, where those who were directly influenced by Erhard's often confrontational sermons or those curious to learn more about this pop icon will discover TRANSFORMATION. For more information on the film, log on to the website: http://www.transformationfilm.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Coming Attractions Editor

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About Coming Attractions

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Previews of Upcoming Films, Videos and New Media Coming To Theaters, Festivals, DVD and the Internet.


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