New Feature Film
A full-length Cinemescope film described by it's director, Jacques Sandoz, as "an incredible premier" in movie production, shot on location in New York, Washington, D.C., Houston and California, "Millennium '73" will detail Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge for millions of people in a style never before attempted by the film industry.
Sandoz, who directed the award-winning "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?", told Divine Times that the original concept for the 21/2-hour movie came from Guru Maharaj Ji himself, and that the script was worked out in detail under the guidance of Shri Bal Bhagwan Ji.
"When Guru Maharaj Ji came to Los Angeles to finish the editing of 'Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?'," Sandoz explained, "he said we will make a feature film of Millennium, and inspired the beginning and end of the movie. He said that he wanted the opening to show somebody living in the utmost darkness, then described the final scene, one of total light. Shri Bal Bhagwan Ji then began working with us. He wanted to have a very brief fiction story which leads to the Festival."
In describing the work sessions with Bal Bhagwan Ji, Sandoz pinpointed the importance for premies to "express themselves according to what they want to do," so the Holy Family can clear up the confusions in our ideas. "I told Bal Bhagwan Ji that if we wanted to start the film with fiction, we must take the time to develop it properly, in a way that audiences could relate to the hero's growth. Bal Bhagwan Ji accepted this in a fantastic way, by testing my ideas and talking with other people. He brought me to the point where there were no confusions in my mind when we started to shoot the film.
Don't hold back
"With the Holy Family, we should not hold anything back," said Sandoz. "What they do when we express an idea is to see how much we believe in it. They will try to shake it, and if the idea is mixed with confusion in our minds, we won't be able to go on with it. This is the meaning of their lila -- to improve our strength. If you know what you can do, say so. Of course, we must always be open to whatever Holy Family is saying, but at the same time we have to express our qualities and talents to serve them in the highest way.
"For example, Bal Bhagwan Ji first said, 'You will have a limit of $20,000. Shoot the film in 16-mm and blow it up to 35.' I said we'll need much more money, and we should shoot it directly in 35-mm. He said 'No,' and I said, Shri Bal Bhagwan Ji, why not shoot it in 8-mm? It doesn't cost any money. We'll just shoot a small film and we can take it to India and show it there. He laughed and said, `Jacques, you tricked me. OK, do it in 35.'
"You see, Bal Bhagwan Ji is playing with us. He wants to see how much we accept the game, how our minds are working. If we open up our own games, then we can come to a larger size."
The style and content of the new film were crystallized only a week before shooting began, according to Sandoz. The movie opens with a scene of the Statue of Liberty and zeroes in on life in America before presenting the story of a Vietnam veteran in New -York City who has hit bottom. Addicted to heroin in the Army, he now misses his "connection" and spends a night "where it seems as if God is hitting him on the head with a hammer." Sunrise finds him on a beach, where the morning light falls on the remains of a poster. All he can read is "…A thousand years of peace for those who want peace."
The hero, played by premie Basil Augustine, begins hitch-hiking out of the city without really knowing where he is going. He is picked up by another war veteran who takes him to Washington, D.C., and they find themselves surrounded by "Soul Rushers." While his friend waits in the car, yelling for him to come, he hears his first satsang. "He has to make a choice," Sandoz says, "and goes back to the darkness. This climaxes in a scene in a hotel room where the two characters shoot smack.
"At this point he realizes he's fallen back into something he must leave, and after a fight with his buddy, he begins hitchhiking again. The film takes him through America - and his own background - as a series of coincidences take him farther and farther. At one point he meets two hippies who have lived in the mountains for two years; they are heading south because they have seen the Grand Cross coming in the sky. But nothing is linked together in the hero's mind. He only knows he needs peace, and when he finally reaches Houston, he ends up at the Astrodome."
The film then gently merges into documentary - while keeping the fiction link throughout. The entire "Millennium" festival is filmed, from Blue Aquarius to "Krishna Lila" to the satsang of Guru Maharaj Ji. Slowly, the hero begins to surrender his mind. A special Knowledge session was arranged, including the pre-Knowledge satsang of Mahatma Gurucharnanand. At the moment of revealing the meditation techniques, the film switches to the hero in meditation - and the rest of the film is "beyond time and space."
We see him back in New York, clean, and the streets become Eden. He lies with a lion and a lamb. Finally he has a vision of himself as a child, running along a beach toward Guru Maharaj Ji. He stumbles, and the hand of the Lord reaches out; the film ends with a freeze of their two hands, fingers nearly touching, then merges into Michaelangelo's painting of God creating Adam.
Technically, "Millennium '73" is a first in many respects. Besides the unique blending of fact and fiction, it is the first film ever to be shot with a hand-held, silent Cinemescope camera - a necessity for following the events in the Astrodome. The budget up to final editing is amazingly low - $120,000 - yet the film is of highest technical quality. "No other event has ever been recorded with such clarity and brilliance," Sandoz said. "In the film 'Woodstock,' for example, they shot in 16-mm and then blew it up to 35. We filmed directly in the larger size, but achieved incredible sound, light and film quality. The people in the film lab were blown away when they saw what had been accomplished."
The five Cinemescope cameras were manned by professional technicians (including Don MacLindon, who was photography director for "Brewster McCloud," also filmed in the Astrodome). Sandoz said that non-premie help was needed because of the intricacy of the equipment and due to union regulations. There were no sound problems in the huge hall, because "we used the master system of Stax Records, resulting in a fantastic 24-soundtrack recording."
Special effects in this film will exceed even those in "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?," and all are geared to portraying the highest level of consciousness in cinemagraphic terms. "At the final night of the festival," said Sandoz, "The hero is at the point of surrendering his mind to Guru Maharaj Ji. Up to this point we filmed objectively, but now, through our character's eyes, the Lord can manifest. We shot with a high speed camera, so satsang will appear to come very slowly, and gradually Guru Maharaj Ji will be transformed into total light. From there, we go directly _ into the Knowledge session."
"Millennium '73" is aimed at distribution in movie theatres by March '74. Produced independently by Shri Hails Productions, it will be taken to the largest companies before final editing. "We're confident of getting distribution," Sandoz said. "The film industry has no place left to go. They have shown the depths of pornography and violence. The religious films that have been made, such as `Siddhartha,' are not real because the filmmakers themselves do not have the final answer."
Only the last scene of "Millennium '73" remains to be filmed. When it is finished and edited, Sandoz' next project may be any of the following satsang stories in animation(two premies are currently working at Hanna-Barbera Studios?; a film tape library to serve the outside media; a series of short films detailing the history of the Holy Family, shot in India; TV versions of "Lord Christ" and "Krishna Lila;" or an epic film based on the Akashic Records. conceived by Guru Maharaj Ji.