Walk With Me is a documentary that peers behind the mysterious curtain of a mindfulness-practicing monastery in rural France. The denizens of the Plum Village monastery have left behind their possessions and their pretensions to practice the spiritual art of living in the moment. Shot over 3 years with unprecedented access, Walk With Me allows us to get that much closer to a subject often shrouded in secrecy.
It strikes me quite quickly that the documentary itself is an exercise in meditation; it lulls us with deliberately soothing music and excellently edited nature sounds. The film makes participants of us, the pace a thing of beauty, very measured, very calm, each image carefully and mindfully chosen. And it doesn’t hurt one ounce that Benedict Cumberbatch narrates.
Walk With Me boasts of time spent with “The Father of Mindfulness” Thich Nhat Hanh, but what I liked best was the insight gleaned from every day people, people who I could relate to, who had left behind everything familiar and everything material for the pursuit of peace and quiet.
I would guess that directors Marc Francis and Max Pugh were themselves transformed by the making of this movie. They’ve delved deeper than we’ve seen before, and achieved a certain intimacy that is rare in a documentary. Told in a fragmentary, rather than narrative, way, the documentary inspires a sense of being and understanding that allows us to explore this unknown by direct observation. The camera never feels intrusive though; there’s a respectful distance and some breathing room that infuses the project with a spiritual vibe.
The images encountered in Walk With Me are unquestionably beautiful. The stories captured, the snippets of life, the tranquility: these all guide us down a path of – and forgive the use of this word – enlightenment.
You can catch Walk With Me at the SXSW Conference & Festival:
March 12 & 13 Zach Theatre
March 15 Alamo Lamar
Eight monastics from the film will be leading daily events at SXSW, including walking meditations and Q&As.