Since 1990 Dr. Francis Lu and Brother David Steindl-Rast have led annual 5- or 7-day film seminars at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.  Films on a particular spiritual theme (such as Healing Through Gratefulness) are shown and discussed, focusing on the participants’ personal experiences.  In 2007 “Families in Film: Now and Forever” was the theme.


  • To understand how film can function to evoke experiences of family life across cultures and across time in both the film characters and in our lives.
  • To understand the interrelatedness of family relationships, family development, and individual development in reinforcing each other.
  • To understand the importance of family life for positive states of mind/body.


Fanny and Alexander DVD

A family is that warm ‘familiar circle’ where we learn about life and laughter and, most important, love.  Yet that love we feel for our families can lead to loss and pain.  Through family life, we experience a full cycle from birth through childhood and adolescence to adulthood, old age, and death of those closest to us.  The life cycle lived uniquely in one family reflects the experience of families from eons past and future in a remarkably consistent way across cultures.  The films of our seminar – from India, Sweden, Japan, France, and the United States -will awaken the memories of all our families and so evoke and develop our compassion through contemplation and self-reflection.

Films shown in this order:

Ken Burns Presents: The West (2004)
Little Women (1994)
The River (1951)
The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Moonstruck (1987)
Late Spring (1949)
Floating Weeds (1959)
Paris, Texas (1984)
Tender Mercies (1983)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Late-night bonus films shown:

L’Atalante (1934)
Baraka (1992)
The Whales of August (1987)
Cries and Whispers (1972)

Br. David Steindl-Rast
Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.