Wisdom is the bliss of seeing through the delusion of self-preoccupation to reveal the underlying dimension of freedom. Compassion is the expression of such bliss to others and sensitivity to other’s suffering.”

Robert Thurman
"Official Story" DVD

If humankind is to survive and evolve, consciousness must be awakened towards the virtues of wisdom and compassion. During this seminar, 18 films were shown that each depict the awakening of consciousness in the characters of the film as well as portray the many facets of consciousness. These include awareness of the poor and oppressed, finding meaning and purpose in life when confronting death, evoking compassion and mercy in the midst of cruelty, joyful participation in the sorrows of the world, and the experience of transpersonal consciousness beyond that of earth.  The films are from the US, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Sweden, the UK, Argentina and Brazil.


  • To understand how film can function to evoke the virtues of wisdom and compassion and the experience of the awakening of consciousness across cultures and time in both the film characters and in the lives of the participants.
  • To understand the importance of wisdom and compassion for positive states of mind/body.

Films shown in this order:

  1. Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
  2. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
  3. The Dead (1987)
  4. The Official Story (1985)
  5. Journey to Italy (1954)
  6. Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962)
  7. The Seventh Seal (1957)
  8. Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
  9. Saint of 9/11 (2006)
  10. La Strada (1954)
  11. Shadowlands (1993)
  12. The Harp of Burma (1956)
  13. Central Station (1998)
  14. Kundun (1997)
  15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  16. Compassion in Exile (1993)
  17. Bagdad Café (1987)
  18. Casablanca (1942)

See also: Twenty Favorite Films

Photo by

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.