Monday, June 18, 2012

From Confusion to Comprehension

Project Happiness -- A Movie Review

I had the pleasure of meeting filmmaker Randy Taran yesterday at the screening of her much acclaimed short film, "Project Happiness." Hosted at the India Community Center (ICC) in Milpitas, CA, this event drew over 40 attendees.

Imagine this: The teaming up of three groups of students, one each from Santa Cruz, California, the Dominion Heritage Academy in Jos, Nigeria, and the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharmasala, India, culminates in a private meeting with His Holiness The Dalai Lama! Who are these children? What do they have in common? And, what do they seek? 

The children are all teens, many of them with troubled pasts, who set out on the eternal quest: What is happiness and where/how do you find it? The film shadows their journey of understanding the nature of lasting happiness.

Millions of students worldwide are bullied in schools or otherwise endure abuse, and suffer from its consequences such as stress, anger, feelings of alienation, even clinical depression. Just the every day challenges of passing from adolescence to adulthood is overwhelming. The suicide rate among stressed-out teens has also risen dramatically over the years, leaving educators, administrators and parents stranded on the island of helplessness. This film illustrates several points:
  • Engaging kids in a conversation about happiness to help raise awareness about themselves and their situations.
  • Encouraging youth to participate in community activities to strengthen their sense of belonging.
  • Challenging students to explore beyond academics to deepen their sense of wonder and intrigue.
  • The seed of happiness is inside everyone, and we can help cradle that potential with our willingness to learn.
  • Sharing our experiences helps expand our happiness.
  • Self reflection is a tool for managing daily stresses and struggle.

I thought the film was tremendous. It's very well made and effectively weaves together the various strands of social and emotional issues faced by today's teenage community. It poignantly illustrates how managing negative energy wedges allows us to manifest who we are and what we want. I think it also made quite an impact on my two teenage sons who watched alongside me. They are considering starting a happiness club in school.

Randy Taran went on to found the Project Happiness nonprofit -- an offshoot of the film -- centered around developing classroom programs to promote social and emotional learning. If you would like to help schedule a screening in your area, please contact the organization via the Request a Screening form and they will be in touch with you.

Here's the link to the YouTube trailer:

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