The little DVD club that could

Newsweek gives a brief plug this week to Spiritual Cinema Circle, which distributes spiritually oriented films on DVD to its paying members. Some reports have compared Spiritual Cinema Circle to Netflix, but the more apt comparison may be to Film Movement, a New York company that sends one independent film per month on DVD. The first DVDs from Spiritual Cinema included one full-length feature, two shorts and one animated film, Deborah Crowe reported in March for the Ventura County Star.

Spiritual Cinema Circle is a joint venture by authors Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks of Ojai, Calif., and Stephen Simon, producer of Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come.

As Newsweek explains, Spiritual Cinema will favor certain spiritual films over others (not that The Passion of the Christ needs any help these days): "Handpicked from film festivals, the movies qualify if they uplift or explain the human condition -- but not if they're overtly religious. ('Whale Rider' fits; 'The Passion' doesn't.)"

Simon has pursued his passion for spiritual films for several years now. Since 2001 he has been a judge for the Damah Film Festival, which was organized by Christians but welcomes any films that explore spiritual experience. (A number of Spiritual Cinema's first offerings, including Katherine Makinney's The Limited and Jillian's Vantage by Geno Andrews, have won top-picture awards at Damah, and both are available on Damah's highlight DVDs.)

In his book The Force Is With You (2002), Simon describes his own interests as metaphysical and reviews more than 60 films that offer "mystical movie messages." Simon describes Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations With God, as a close friend (Walsch's imprint published The Force Is With You), and Walsch is among several New Age supporters of Spiritual Cinema Circle. Simon has directed his first film, Indigo, about a psychic child who can heal family wounds.

Still, Simon says he doesn't want films to be metaphysical tracts. Asked by Magical Blend magazine about the teaching potential of Indigo, he responded, "I hope that it doesn't teach anybody anything, because entertainment is not supposed to be for teaching. Entertainment is supposed to be for entertaining people, and hopefully for inspiring and empowering people. I think people actually resent it if they go to a movie and they feel like they are being taught a lesson."

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