A spectacular exploration of varied paths of devotion that converge at one of the world’s most extraordinary religious events — the Kumbh Mela — Pan Nalin’s thoughtful documentary is a genuinely spiritual journey.
Precious few films bring genuine curiosity and reverence to the subject of spirituality. Fewer still approach the subject with anything like the diligence of Faith Connections, a spectacular, openhearted documentary that explores the frontiers of devotion.
Kumbh Mela is a sprawling religious event that occurs once every three years at one of four rotating locations. It is the world's largest gathering, a destination for some 100 million Hindu pilgrims. Indian director Pan Nalin visited Kumbh Mela and found within that impossible throng of travellers the stories that make up Faith Connections. Nalin's many subjects include naked holy men, taciturn policemen, desperate pilgrims in search of missing family members, a yogi ascetic who took it upon himself to raise an abandoned baby, and another who explains the usefulness of pot-smoking as a method of renouncing the world. But no single subject is more compelling — and heart-rending — than nine-year-old Kishan Tiwari, a tobacco chewing runaway who sometimes half jokingly claims he wants to grow up to be a Mafia Don. In more serious moments, Kishan says his real ambition is to be a sadhu, or wandering monk.
Nalin complements his collection of
personal narratives with images rife with
mystery and beauty: portraits of hands
and faces, vistas of busy footbridges receding
into the hazy distance, and bodies
performing seemingly impossible contortions.
Faith Connections gives us glimpses
of lives lived in pursuit of closer proximity
to God — and each of those glimpses is itself
a startling vision to behold.