A family is that warm ‘familiar circle’ where we learn about life and laughter and, most important, love. Yet that love we feel for our families can lead to loss and pain. Through family life, we experience a full cycle from birth through childhood and adolescence to adulthood, old age, and death of those closest to us. The life cycle lived uniquely in one family reflects the experience of families from eons past and future in a remarkably consistent way across cultures. The films featured in this seminar — from India, Sweden, Japan, France, and the United States — will awaken the memories of all our families and so evoke and develop our compassion through contemplation and self-reflection.

Fanny and Alexander DVD


  • To understand how film can function to evoke experiences of family life across cultures and across time in both the film characters and in our lives.
  • To understand the interrelatedness of family relationships, family development, and individual development in reinforcing each other.
  • To understand the importance of family life for positive states of mind/body.

Films shown in this order:

  1. Ken Burns Presents: The West (2004)
  2. Little Women (1994)
  3. The River (1951)
  4. The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959)
  5. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  6. Moonstruck (1987)
  7. Late Spring (1949)
  8. Floating Weeds (1959)
  9. Paris, Texas (1984)
  10. Tender Mercies (1983)
  11. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  12. Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Late-night bonus films shown:

  1. L’Atalante (1934)
  2. Baraka (1992)
  3. The Whales of August (1987)
  4. Cries and Whispers (1972)

See also: Twenty Favorite Films

Photo by Olivia Bauso

Br. David Steindl-Rast
Francis G. Lu, M.D.

Francis G. Lu, M.D.

About the author

Francis G. Lu, M.D., is the Luke & Grace Kim Endowed Professor Emeritus in Cultural Psychiatry at the University of California, Davis. He co-led more than 20 film seminars at Esalen with Brother David Steindl-Rast from 1990 - 2016.

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.