Chasing The Present Review – Enlightening, Illuminating, Revealing

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Chasing the Present, from 1091 Pictures, brings to the screen a documentary of one man's journey as he sets out on a path of self-awareness which takes him from New York to Bali, Nepal, Peru, and India.

Directed by Mark Waters, Chasing the Present focuses on James Sebastiano Jr., and features Russell Brand, Alex Grey, Graham Hancock, Gary Weber, Rupert Spira, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Matthew Watherston, Jose Sanchez, James Sebastiano Sr., Jordan Sebastiano, Zelda Hall, Josh Korda, and Vijeth Kumar.

The documentary begins in New York City, as we are introduced to Sebastiano who, through voice over, provides a glimpse of his past history of a deep plunge into the drug world, no high was enough and he chased the anesthetized feelings with misguided conviction that the torment that followed him would be erased.

This path had predictable outcomes until he cleans up and with the same drive, one could say the same addiction he throws himself into work and becomes quite successful.

The documentary moves through Manhattan's, pre-pandemic, Times Square, wall to wall people, congested traffic, decibels of noise and Fifth and 42nd, the sea of people, almost gazing through the lens as people pass hoping to see, find a spark of something.

Intertwining through the story, Sebastiano Jr., meets his dad, James Sebastiano Sr., at a local diner, where he struggles to explain his journey. His anxiety, drug use and other issues which he believed encumbered him. His father is a bit skeptical of the new age enlighten guru travels and adds small bits of humor to the serious topic of debilitating anxiety.

Throughout the documentary we travel also to these global points of eastern philosophies and spiritual guidance, and as the Sharma's, gurus and leaders speak, we understand many of the common themes that touch their pre-enlightenment journey lives are similar, needs, relationships, money, desires, how to be in relationships without causing pain or being hurt. Oddly, all global questions.

Searching through streets of Manhattan, to the stillness of the Ganges, and deep into the jungles of Peru, he immerses himself in meditation, self-inquiry, and plant medicine to find the root cause of the problem and learn how to finally find freedom from his crippling anxiety. 

Sebastiano also visits graduates of these programs who live in Manhattan, which allow him to carry on the spiritual practice he discovered over his year of soul-searching. The discovery of "I", cultivating silence, resting at self, become topics that these guides explain.

Again the New Age theme is presented in the film, in reality, many of these "guides" in Manhattan are actual therapist who focus on non-traditional and traditional means to assist individuals through blocks or moments that have stayed locked in the mind.

Weaving through Sebastiano's journey we are introduced to celebrities who are on similar paths of enlightenment and how the emptiness, even after the attainment of goals, remains.

Russel Brand, explains his own journey of enlightenment and with his successes he lends credibility to the notion of finding inner peace, the journey, his path and in his unique style or presentation a bit of humor to break the seriousness.

We follow Sebastiano, returning to the dinner conversation with his dad before we embark on another point in the journey, to Bali, Indonesia, New York, Kathmandu, Nepal, Iquitos, Peru, Rishikesh, India, each leader explaining their own path to enlightenment and what they found hindered them.

Many of course, outside of the U.S. live a minimalistic lifestyle, surrounded by nature, and the limited means of life in the location. Minimalism in Manhattan is still expensive, and Sebastiano's material success, which he clarifies in the beginning is not reduced.

He does not take a vow of poverty. He understands the journey is only available through the success of his means. He doesn't look at the success as the stumbling block to his downfall, it is the means to his healing, but does not have the power to heal.

Along the way, he finds answers to why a person who seemingly has it all can continues to suffer from debilitating panic attacks, recognizing the beauty and power that lies within each of us, if we are willing to go there.

Chasing the Present presents Sebastiano's journey and invites the viewers to take the 90 or so minutes and live, vicariously through him, taking the risk to travel mentally to these places that maybe hindering others from a fullness or simply a peacefulness.

Oddly, I found myself drawn to parts of the journey and dismissed others. Chasing the Present is as simple as a free therapy session or as complex as the realization of need. Cultivating silence to hear more clearly, understanding self to see with a mind's eye or unlocking the mental compartments that cripple.

As a documentary, Chasing the Present is informative, educational, enlightening, and revealing.

Chasing The Present is available on iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, Vimeo, Sky UK, iNDemand, Verizon, Vubiquity, Dish and Telus.

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