Since 1990 Dr. Francis Lu and Brother David Steindl-Rast have led annual 5- or 7-day film seminars at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.  Films on a particular spiritual theme (such as Healing Through Gratefulness) are shown and discussed, focusing on the participants’ personal experiences.  In 2007 “Families in Film: Now and Forever” was the theme.


  • 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.


Fanny and Alexander DVD

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 of our 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.

Films shown in this order:

Ken Burns Presents: The West (2004)
Little Women (1994)
The River (1951)
The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Moonstruck (1987)
Late Spring (1949)
Floating Weeds (1959)
Paris, Texas (1984)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Late-night bonus films shown:

L’Atalante (1934)
Baraka (1992)
The Whales of August (1987)
Cries and Whispers (1972)