Osho on Broadway
This year, Swami Manik, together with Ali and Krisana from the Meditation Module in New York City, organized the first Osho Film Festival in the US. It was held over three days, from June 2 to June 4.
Ali and Krisana were encouraged by the popularity and success of this event in Europe, and they wanted to produce this festival in the setting of a professional theater. And despite hearing many warnings that festivals like this would never succeed in New York, Manik took courage and accepted their invitation.
Many obstacles had to be overcome. For example, theater rentals are horrendous, starting at $2000 for an evening. Since there is no cohesive sannyasin infrastructure in NYC, it was quite challenging to advertise the event amidst the commercial cacophony in the city.
Ali and Krisana set an advertising campaign in motion. It included their Meditation Module contacts and sponsorship from a Manhattan gallery. They found an appropriate theater on Broadway, around the corner from Park Avenue and Madison Square. Untiring efforts were put into printing flyers, handouts, and elaborate brochures. A flyer blitz was orchestrated through the Meditation Module team, and it was done throughout selected neighborhoods of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn.
New York has a buzzing culture scene, and posters that were put up for the event were often posted over by others on the very same day. The local sannyasins took it playfully, and organized themselves into teams that would monitor the posters so that they could be seen and so that Osho was kept in the public eye. A big advertisement in the Village Voice contributed a lot to the necessary publicity. Later on, copies of the Village Voice advertisement that had been cut out from the newspaper were found left behind at the venue.
The efforts put into the publicity led to an overwhelming response. On the first evening of the festival there was a heavy thunderstorm at 5 pm, and the entire subway service was shut down for a couple of hours. Despite this, incredibly, all the seats were sold out for the festival that evening. On the following evening, when Priya from Osho Padma Meditation Center arrived with the participants of a meditation group, the capacity of the theater was severely stretched and additional chairs had to be organized. There was standing room only for the last guests to arrive, and it was even difficult to fit everyone in standing. Luckily, New Yorkers are accustomed to being on their feet, as they often have to queue and stand in crowded subway trains.
So how was the response? Here are some comments from Manik:
We didnt keep track of exact numbers, but there were probably about 150 people for each evening, and a total of 450 for the three nights. There were seats for about 100 people; there was a carpet with pillows in front of the screen where about 15 people could sit; and at least 30 people were standing.
The response was very good. It seems to be common in NY that people leave during an event, but that didnt happen at all during our festival, which surprised many of the guests too. Especially unusual was the long applause at the end of each showing. Many people had never experienced that at the screening of a movie.
The part about the destruction of the Ranch and Oshos arrest was really quite intense, especially Oshos comments about Ronald Reagan, who seems to be considered a great president in the US. (Osho didnt agree with that.) Ali and Krisana thought that this might be too much for the New Yorkers. I didnt go along with that view and decided to show that part anyway. As we were watching that part of the movie, the atmosphere in the theater was really intense, and Ali, who wanted to use the event to advertise his Meditation Module, was really nervous. I was also very curious about what the reaction would be. At the end of the movie there was roaring applause, so I considered that to be an agreement with the movie.
It was interesting that this festival, in contrast to ones I have done in Europe, was very intellectual, and during the breaks people wanted to have a discussion. In Europe people tend to be rather quiet and moved after the movies, but here in NY the audience was more turned on intellectually.
Right now I am booked all the way into 2007. In December I am planning a festival in London, and in January there will probably be two or three festivals in Sydney and Byron Bay. Apart from that I am working on a translation of the movies into Italian because I am getting many requests from there, but most Italians dont seem to speak English.
Article first published in Viha Connection magazine and website