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*****”Thanks to a wonderful narration, this is more comedy than copulation”

13 Feb

Neil White at off to India…and another strike for the guru, Laurie Handlers

Alexander Snelling & Kirsty Allison at the Scottish Screen Party in Cannes 2010,

photo by Laurence Tarquin von Thomas


“What do I know about tantra? Isn’t that the sort of nookie that Sting and his missus get up to? Isn’t it supposed to last for hours?
Well, while I recognise the Police front man and Trudie Styler are beautiful people and need to expend their energies in such a fashion, it all sounds a bit exhausting to me.
But before you pass the sick bucket around, let me enlighten you. Tantra is not just about a bit of spectacular how’s yer father.
It’s apparently a liberation of one’s whole body and mind. It allows one to reach a level of serenity where the world is opened up.
Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Laurie Handlers, a 60-year-old self-acclaimed tantric guru who is followed in this documentary, leading a bunch of Americans on a tour of India to help them reach their inner selves.
So, we follow them and their tourist bus to India’s spiritual centres and the country from where tantra emerged (you’ve heard of the Karma Sutra, right?)
But, thanks to a wonderful dead-pan Louis Theroux-style narration, we soon realise that much of this journey this is going to be comedy rather than copulation.
Indeed, while everyone seems to be in denial, the first hour is more of a feature about a badly organised holiday with some breathing exercises on the tour bus thrown in (one scene where there is extended mediation with the group making noises like Meg Ryan in the When Harry Met Sally restaurant scene is truly hilarious)
Nowhere was the contradiction of the journey more evident than in Jaipur where the tantric students have barely a second to observe the city’s rich culture and yet, perched upon the tourist camel trail, mock the fleets of holidaymakers’ buses nearby.
Indeed, the ratio of shopping vs tantra rather gives away the idea that even the most enlightened Americans prefer consumerism or spiritualism.
But then a strange thing happens…the tour enters the India which is off the tourist track and we, and the narrator, begin to have empathy with a group which we had previously felt to be little more than the usual over-the-top American tourists.
And by the end, you know what, I not only felt a desire to go to India, but I wouldn’t mind being on one of Laurie Handlers’ marathon trips.
So overall, it’s a chilled out 7/10 for Tantric Tourists, which, by the way was sent to me on preview by producer Kirsty Allison.
She is looking for places to screen Tantric Tourists and told me: “Various yoga centres and fans are starting to request that they host screenings too.  We had a screening in London on Monday, Boy George is mad about it, and wants to meet the guru.”.
“It will be available on iTunes and LoveFilm on 14th Feb. The DVD has many extras, and that will be on Amazon.”
There you are: it’s film 52 and, finally, I’ve got a quote from a producer”



*****Supercool BBC interview

13 Feb

Nikki Bedi on Laurie Handlers…”She’s like Marmite…I laughed my head off”

Listen to the full interview:

Laurie Handlers at the British premiere of Tantric Tourists at the East End Film Festival in 2008


*****Reviews: The Guardian & Radio Times

12 Feb

Also this week “There’s much to admire in Alexander Snelling’s documentary about a perspiring gang of sex-starved westerners on a tantric tour of India. He clocks some genuine emotional flashpoints and shoots India with adoring vivacity” ***The Guardian

“India has long held an attraction for travellers searching for some kind of spiritual enlightenment. In director Alexander Snelling’s first feature documentary, a group of American tourists on a whirlwind tour of holy sites search in vain for “the real India”. Led by ebullient tantric teacher Laurie Handlers, who hopes to initiate a deep, inner transformation among her disciples, the group soon finds its dreams of nirvana clashing with the frantic reality of day-to-day life. Often the only time they can perform tantric meditation is on the road in their coach. It’s fitfully amusing when the deadpan narration highlights the dichotomy between the tourists’ quest for transcendence and their more earthly consumer instincts.” The Radio Times

*****Jason Solomons’s Trailer Trash*****

6 Feb

Trailer Trash

Trash catches up with Sam Riley and puts his money where his mouth is with his Oscar night betting forecast…[and explains the spellbinding nature of Tantric Tourists]

Karma chameleon

After attending the premiere of comedy doc Tantric Tourists last week, I hear Boy George is now under the spell of the film’s self-proclaimed guru. He’s even arranged a meeting with this spiritual guide, a brash, 60-year-old New Yorker called Laurie Handlers, who leads a bunch of Americans to seek enlightenment in the “real” India. The film is released this week.

*****Love up the review*****

4 Feb

Independent and Slack Alice Films

In association with Calcutta Rescue Fund present


Directed, edited and shot by Alexander Snelling

Produced by Kirsty Allison and Alexander Snelling

UK release February 14, 2011


A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

This eighty minute multi- award winning documentary focuses on the travails and potentially transformative experiences of ten American tourists, aged sixteen to sixty five, on their first visit to India under the tantric wings of self-professed guru, Laurie Handlers, a 60 year old, surprisingly youthful, tie dye wearing New Yorker. Their arduous nine day tour of India, punctuated by long days of travel and pre-dawn risings, during which Handlers intermittently leads tantric chakra-clearing exercises to redirect trapped sexual energy, is meant to break down resistance to new experience, though the simultaneous ‘squeezing’ of one’s anal sphincter during non-posture exercises is said to help.

Featuring beautiful, sometimes awe-inspiring footage of some of India’s historic and spiritual high points, among them, life along the Ganges River and the Taj Mahal, the film also centres on the foibles of it’s North American trippers, opening with shots of lumbering over-sized bums and buddha tummies. With the exception of a fit, real-life, self-made millionaress horse handler and the sixteen year old adopted Indian son of one of the travellers, the trippers are all middle aged, middle class Americans who have, by and large, delayed their pursuit of spiritual enlightenment in favour of the quest for material gain. They are, apparently, from all walks of life, from artist and administrative assistant to lawyer and singer. But despite the film’s predictable opening, or possibly, enabled by it, one comes to increasingly empathise with these travellers, and their unprompted, off the cuff responses, ever more tired looking eyes and childlike glibness, making Tantric Tourists a successful journey, whether its’ focus was intentionally meant to be universal or not.

Laughs are frequent, especially for those not personally enduring the journey’s inconveniences and delights. Take for example, a lengthily scene of mass, enthusiastically loud chakra clearing on the Indian tour bus during which Laurie encourages uninhibited spontaneity in her students. If the sight of ten tourists literally talking, sometimes shouting to themselves while bouncing up and down in the seats of a moving coach, eyes closed isn’t enough to inspire chuckles, the sight of the Indian driver and his young assistant struggling not to laugh out loud at their obviously crazy passengers is. The scene seems far too outrageous not to be real, though shades of today’s all too easily assimilated TV docu-soaps are apparent, as the male voice over throughout further signifies.

The actual filming of this documentary, during which its director, Alexander Snelling claims nothing was ‘planned, set up or even repeated for the cameras,’ mirrors the tour itself – rather rocky at the outset, gathering momentum and savvy as it progresses, though we’re told at the beginning that those accompanying guru Handlers are ‘friends and supporters.’ By the time the group reaches the Ganges, with its myriad of worlds within worlds, we are with the travellers, and lines between fact and fiction are smoothly blurred, with the American contingent doing nothing to hide their amazement and appreciation. There are also occasions on which some of the women openly express the ways in which seeing the great Ganges and its many dramas and rituals have moved them, with tears in their eyes. Such scenes are touching and enviable for the rapture they convey, whether real or feigned, though I suspect the reactions in most cases were both spontaneous and genuine.

Some intentionally cliché devices are also employed, such as a scenario in which an Indian tour guide takes the group to a village, in search of the ‘real India,’ which he states to the camera is ‘not really India,’ as its inhabitants have for several years, been accustomed to tourists visiting them and showering them with trinkets. Cut to the travellers, with Americans offering villagers baseball caps and t-shirts from ‘home’, and the millionaress doling out one sweet per child from a jar bought in the local shop. Such a contrived scene fits in with pre-conceived notions of gullible Americans and tight-wad millionaires, making the scene an unchallenging easy to watch, yet enjoyable one, in a tour guide book kind of way.

Nevertheless, director Alexander Snelling, who shot the film in nine days with two cameras, three crew and occasional help from a member of the cast, has cleverly straddled the border between feature film and documentary with Tantric Tourists, offering viewers just enough of a mixture of cliché and surprises to generate laughs as well as enlighten or, remind them of that unbridled blending of mysticism and tourist traps that is India. The film is also imbued with a real sense of India’s over-populated streets and claustrophobic living, as well as its’ colour and pageantry. It’s all enough to make you want to board a plane post haste, avoiding inner-continental Indian train travel at all costs once you’ve arrived.

But has this journey changed anyone, earthy guru Laurie Handlers and those watching wonder. Perhaps, and the many souvenirs purchased by the travellers may help them re-conjure some of the feeling of the place. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, you can further the feelings of goodwill and enjoyment the film inspires by going to see Tantric Tourists, which will aptly, be screening at a cinema near you from February 14th – Valentine’s Day. And once expenses have been recouped, a portion of the proceeds of DVD sales of this life-affirming, independent film will go to Calcutta Rescue Fund, which the film is already assiting through the encouragement of donations and inclusion in its’ promotion. Calcutta Rescue Fund is a vital organisation which helps the needy of that impoverished region, particularly children, who especially benefit from it, gaining access to proper medical care and two new schools, among other vital needs. The Fund was begun (and is still enabled by) now 80 year old Dr. Jack Preger, who made his own life-initial changing journey to India from his home in the UK back in 1980.

Enquiries: Karen Gleave 077779 259393

for more info on Laurie Handlers and her Tantric workshops

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