A new documentary short, “Hare Krishna: 50 Years of Service and Joy,” is now available for screening at ISKCON temples and institutions everywhere. Released for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary, it showcases the society’s many impressive contributions to the world.
The twenty-minute film was supported by ISKCON Communications and the 50th Anniversary Committee. It was created by professional documentary filmmaker Krishna-Lila Dasi (Krisztina Danka) and an international crew, who traveled around the globe to shoot the footage and interview devotees.
The film opens with improvisational actor Yadunath Das – a very personable guide – showing us the storefront on New York’s 26 2nd Avenue where Srila Prabhupada started it all.
Yadunath talks about ISKCON's humble beginnings and shows how tiny 26 2nd Avenue is
From there, we go globe-hopping to see a snapshot of Prabhupada’s society fifty years later. We see the spiritual city he envisaged in Mayapur, West Bengal. In England, we see Kirtan London distributing Krishna’s Holy Names to a mainstream audience. And in Moscow, Russia – a place once stifled by oppressive regimes – we see a ten-thousand strong congregation.
Meanwhile in Brazil, where distribution of Prabhupada’s books has made a massive comeback to the tune of 350,000 books a year, we meet BBT translators and book distributors. In Australia, we see ISKCON’s hugely popular restaurants and learn how Prabhupada’s society contributed to the rise of vegetarianism in the mainstream. And in Mumbai, India, we see the ISKCON Annamrta program feeding sanctified food to 1.2 million underprivileged schoolchildren every day.
The opening of the Mayapur scene
Finally in Hungary, we see Krishna Valley, the largest sustainable eco-village in Europe, which is completely off the grid and produces all its own vegetables, fruit, grain and dairy. And in Alachua, Florida, USA, we see ISKCON’s next 50 years being born as its second generation studies at the Bhaktivedanta Academy.
Throughout we also learn some incredible facts about ISKCON’s achievements over the years. For instance, there are 650 temples in over 100 countries; nine million worshippers visit ISKCON centers every year; and over the past 50 years, ISKCON devotees have distributed over 500 million of Prabhupada’s books.
BBT Brazil director Nanda Kumar Das and his team at the BBT warehouse near Sao Paulo
The documentary also shows that ISKCON is made up of an incredibly diverse group of people, from all nationalities, races, and backgrounds. Devotees lead “regular” lives with families and a variety of different jobs, yet find in ISKCON meaningful spiritual engagement that speaks to them.
Despite this diversity, the film also shows that ISKCON’s members find unity as spirit souls, and in serving humanity. “The best recipe to be happy is developing an attitude of service towards other people,” says Nitai Durr in the film, manager of Govinda’s in Burleigh Heads, Australia.
Jaya Sri Radhe dasi teaching math at Alachua's Bhaktivedanta Academy
Brazilian book distributor Gunacuda Dasi adds that she distributes Prabhupada’s books because they changed her life and her consciousness completely, and she wants to give that gift to others.
For viewers from the general public, “50 Years of Service and Joy” is likely to provide a picture of ISKCON’s valuable contribution to society at large, and an understanding of why it’s relevant to them. And for devotees, it will provide a sense that they’re not alone but part of a huge, diverse family; and that the service they’re doing is deeply valuable.
Annamrita project leader Radha Krishna Das checks on the cooks
ISKCON temples and institutions can get a HD download link for the film by writing to Krishna-lila at firstname.lastname@example.org., and providing information on their intended screening date, venue, and audience.
So far, the film was premiered at the ISKCON 50 festival in Mumbai, India, and has been shown at the ISKCON center in Naperville, Illinois. It will also be screened at the ISKCON Leadership Sanga and the GBC meetings in Mayapur between February 22nd and March 23rd; and at the ISKCON Communications Meetings in Villa Vrindavana, Italy this May.
Bhakti Vijnana Goswami imparts information about ISKCON Russia
The documentary will be translated into many different languages, including Portuguese, Spainish, Russian and Hungarian. And its technical specifications are broadcast standard, so that ISKCON communications staff can submit it to TV stations in their areas.
“ISKCON’s 50th Anniversary Committee and Communications Ministry would really like to encourage devotees to take advantage of this audio visual tool to educate people about ISKCON,” comments film-maker Krishna-lila.
Some data on the screen
“50 Years of Service and Joy” has also been widely appreciated by ISKCON leaders including Mukunda Goswami and Sivarama Swami. It will be available for devotees in general on Youtube within the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, another longer film – running forty-five minutes and entitled The Joy of Devotion – has a tentative release date of July 13th, 2016, the 50th anniversary of ISKCON’s incorporation. Where “50 Years of Service and Joy” focused more on the achievements of the institution, “Joy of Devotion” will focus on the people, with more in-depth and personal interviews.
A closing scene from the New York Ratha Yatra
“Making these films broadened my vision of how magnificent ISKCON is in its variety of people and services,” Krishna-lila says. “The experience strengthened my faith, and made me appreciate Srila Prabhupada even more. I feel blessed that he and the devotees allowed me to do this service.”
Please write to Krishna-lila at email@example.com to order a screener of “Hare Krishna: 50 Years of Service and Joy” for your temple or institution.[ film ] [ documentary ] [ Joy of Devotion ]