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DOCUMENTARIES

Film Completed   /  JOSEPH LONDON

The Beloved

An epic meditation on an audacious living experiment, and its untold aftermath.

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Impact areas

ARTS

HEALTH & WELLBEING

Crew

  • DIRECTOR JOSEPH LONDON

  • PRODUCER JOSEPH LONDON

Synopsis

DURATION: 260 MINUTES

This short-term crowdfunding campaign with DAF is for $5,720 AUD. Your support will go towards the licensing fees for archival footage used in the film - footage that would otherwise be lost to the public.
Donations via DAF are completely tax-deductible.

SYNOPSIS
The Beloved is a portrait of a group of individual spiritual seekers, all of whom once followed a mysterious calling and surrendered themselves and their way of life to a man and a belief in his vision. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Osho as he is now known, was a controversial spiritual teacher from India who took disciples or ‘sannyasins’ from all over the world during the seventies and eighties. The Beloved focuses on sannyasins and ex-sannyasins from the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia, where in 1981, the group established a large ‘satellite’ commune and ashram in the centre of town. The sannyasin living experiment set in motion fundamental changes to existing social structures and identities; new names, new appearance - orange and red clothing only - and a completely new focus: a ‘master’ and the promise of enlightenment. In their vision for a higher consciousness revolution, the movement experienced a spectacular and public rise and fall in the space of only a few years, with the sannyasin headquarters in Oregon U.S.A. and the satellite commune in Fremantle both collapsing. Many sannyasins found themselves lost ‘in the world’, left to deal with the fallout of having cut family ties, sold off inheritances, and dropped out of the wider community and workforce. This is an epic meditation on the audacious living experiment and untold aftermath of the Rajneesh sannyasins in Fremantle, told by sannyasins and ex-sannyasins in intimate and, at times, harrowing detail. It is a contemplative listening experience of different voices and perspectives, presented over the changing backdrop of Fremantle - its cyclical events, weather pattens and light - as well as rare or personal archive.

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4.37% funded
  • $5,720.00

    FUNDING GOAL
  • $250.00

    FUNDS RAISED
  • August 2021

    PROJECT ENDS
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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

The Beloved aims to bring to wider recognition and appreciation the extraordinary history of the Rajneesh sannyasin movement, which made such an impression in the 70s and 80s in Australia, but which also carries a complicated and mostly unknown legacy. The sannyasin living experiment was an attempt to transcend traditional structures and boundaries in Western capitalist society - structures that are still being grappled with today. This movement was one of the more successful of recent times at entering mainstream consciousness, but their methods found controversy and conflict, and the attention that resulted was often negative. This film discusses the issues that surround spiritual teachers and groups - good and bad - in great depth and through lived experience, as the only voices in the film are those of sannyasins and ex-sannyasins themselves.

Impact

What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The colour and life the Rajneesh sannyasins brought to Fremantle in the 80s is remembered fondly, however their legacy is complicated and unresolved. Interpretations among sannyasins vary wildly. This documentary seeks to create a space for the processing of this inspiring but troubled and in some cases traumatic history through its engagement with landscape and memory. By eliminating talking heads, the film attempts to deflate the ‘us and them’ tone of traditional historical documentary forms.

Outcomes

What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

This documentary is about a significant national story and fascinating time in Australia’s recent social history that disappeared and remained a mystery to the wider public ever since. The Beloved offers a version of this history that delves deeply into its primary and most misunderstood characteristic - the experience of the disciple. This film will raise awareness of the spiritual disciple experience, such as the role of belief in groups and of the transfer of personal power. Another key issue explored by the film is that of historical representation itself. This film offers alternative means of accessing ‘truth’ to the methods of authority and evidence used in traditional historical documentaries, which are, increasingly, easily disputed and rejected, and instead attempts to access the truth of a history through imagination and empathy. This documentary form offers a way of representing true stories that require sensitivity or have been previously misunderstood or misrepresented.

Activities

How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

The Beloved is engaging its target audiences via social media, community and state media and by applying to festivals that may value either its form of historical storytelling or historical subject; film festivals that focus on issues of spirituality or with an historical connection to the Rajneesh movement, for example. The recent success of the Netflix series Wild Wild Country - about the Rajneesh sannyasin commune in Oregon - is a valuable precursor for The Beloved, and my hope is that this film can build on some of the raised awareness of the movement that Wild Wild Country created. The Beloved has a dedicated website: www.thebelovedfilm.com that contains the most recent information on the film and means of attending screenings, and impressions of its form and atmosphere. The completed film has already successfully screened to some of my target audiences in WA and, most recently, been accepted in the Melbourne International Film Festival 2021.

Stakeholders

How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

The Beloved is a collaboration between myself and the sannyasins who participated in the film. Over the course of making the film, we have had many discussions that informed my creative decisions. The Beloved has already received a lot of interest among Fremantle sannyasins, with many in the community coming to local screenings. The film has inspired much discussion and debate within the community and a wide variety of responses - from anger and sorrow to sincere expressions of appreciation and gratitude. Based on this strong interest and response, I have applied to film festivals in cities that have an enduring sannyasin presence or history themselves: Byron Bay and Portland as examples. Since its premiere in December 2020 at Luna Cinemas in Fremantle, I have maintained an ongoing relationship with Luna and arranged subsequent screenings. I have attended these screenings, introduced the film, and was involved in a Q&A at a recent screening in Bunbury, Western Australia.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

My hope is that this film exposes audiences to experiences that are outside of the mainstream - both in the story of its participants and through the unconventional form of the film itself, in its 260 minute duration and contemplative formal structure that engages strongly with place and memory. It is also a story from and about my hometown. Being deeply immersed in a place and a story for this length of time will hopefully enliven audiences to their own backyards and the stories that exist and are yet to be uncovered there.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

The Beloved will have achieved its impact vision when it has been screened at national and international festivals and subsequently broadcast or distributed through second tier platforms. I would love for this film to initiate in the sannyasin community an open and constructive dialogue about the past with one another and the wider community that promotes empathy and healing, for Australian audiences and in particular the Fremantle community to have a stronger engagement with its social history and environment, and for audiences generally to appreciate the philosophical questions raised and the form of historical storytelling the film offers,