Focus on Film: Trends in conscious filmmaking with Danette Wolpert, Executive Director of ILLUMINATE Film Festival


What trends do you see in film today?

Aside from lots of superheroes, Alicia Vikander being Hollywood’s new “It” girl (seven films in one year, including Ex Machina and The Danish Girl), and the abundance of dinosaurs (Jurassic World, The Good Dinosaur, Extinction), the movie industry is seeing some serious change. For starters, every major studio and their grandmother has a streaming app: Warner Brothers, Disney, and 20th Century Fox, on top of the iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and network apps. If you watch movies on demand, it is becoming harder to find the good stuff. We need a filter – a trusted source to tell us where to go and what to watch.

With all that online hubbub, there needs to be a reason to get off your couch and go to the theater. So the film industry is making movie-going an event. My step-daughters attended a Minions screening with slides, bounce houses, and a yellow carpet of four-foot walking golden Twinkies. Star Wars fans boasted about making it through 24-hour marathons.  And at the ILLUMINATE Film Fest, you “view and do” your movies: you can watch a film about yoga and then launch right into your sun salutations – all in the same room.  We’re in a whole new paradigm of movie-going.

Lastly, and most importantly to us seeker-types, conscious cinema is on the rise. Gone are the days you’ll be hard-pressed to find a quality doc about spiritual practice, veganism, meditation, or the interconnectedness of the universe. Veteran filmmakers are themselves experiencing personal awakenings and bringing their newly enlightened philosophies into the cinematic conversation, elevating the quantity and quality of conscious films worldwide.  


Talk to me about inspirational films. What are a couple of your faves and why?

The Bucket List because Morgan Freeman is the voice of the gods and because I think everyone should have two things in life: a Deepak Chopra book and a bucket list. Both of them push people out of their comfort zones to design, and to live, their best lives.

Groundhog Day, because everyone wishes they could make their cranky uncle/cousin/friend who can’t seem to kick their victimhood syndrome binge-watch this film.

Pay It Forward, because who doesn’t want to watch one young kid manifest a global goodwill movement of kindness and gratitude?

Defending Your Life, not just because Meryl Streep gracefully plays an applicant to heaven with a shoe-in for ascension, but because this film depicts how our lives are profoundly shaped by the way we deal with fear.


What are some new must-see conscious films?

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is a breathtaking, enlightening animated adaption of the classic text written and directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King), starring Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, Frank Langella, Alfred Molina, Quvenzhané Wallis, and John Rhys-Davies

Paulo Coehlo’s Best Story is a dramatic biopic depicting the rise of renowned Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, whose 25-year-old spiritual classic The Alchemist still remains on the New York Times bestseller list.

Landfill Harmonic is a heartfelt, moving story of how instruments made from recycled trash bring hope to children whose futures are otherwise spiritless.

He Named Me Malala is a story of great courage embodied by a staggeringly ambitious 15-year-old determined to empower other young women despite the opposition of the Taliban.

The 2016 Illuminate Film Festival, the world’s premier film festival for conscious cinema, will be held June 1-5, 2016 amidst the stunning red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.