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Mixed or average reviews - based on 6 Critics What's this?

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  • Summary: What is the most important question there is? After exploring the phenomenon of Star Trek fans in the acclaimed documentary Trekkies, filmmaker Roger Nygard is taking on The Nature of Existence, traveling the globe to the source of the world’s philosophies, religions, and belief systems, interviewing spiritual leaders, scholars, scientists, artists and others who have influenced, inspired, or freaked out humanity. (Walking Shadows) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 6
  2. Negative: 1 out of 6
  1. If its summary approach is less than penetrating, its underlying message of tolerance and open-mindedness is commendable.
  2. 70
    His film is no more profound than its forerunners, but it’s quicker, funnier and less pretentious.
  3. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    40
    There's something a tad disingenuous about the director's quest for meaning, as if the whole arc of the project has been contrived to adhere to a scripted template rather than to document a genuine search.
  4. Reviewed by: Lisa Rosman
    40
    Nygard’s mildly insipid, occasionally condescending tone makes you long for the bombast of early Michael Moore.
  5. More so than his other documentaries, Nygard remains in the spotlight from start to finish as he traveled across the globe to seek answers from various religious leaders. It's one thing to fail as a doc showman but by the film's end you feel like you have no answers to any of his questions.
  6. Certainly there are filmgoers who enjoy this kind of noncommittal metaphysical quest. I am not one of them. It makes me think that the filmmaker is more interested in showing us his vacation slides instead of sharing any real insights.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 1 out of 2
  1. Jan 3, 2011
    8
    The Nature of Existence is great documentary film-making. It is exhaustive in its scope, presented in a very objective manner and leaves the viewer wanting more.

    Mr. Nygard does not delve into each philosophy in great detail as he is constrained by the length of a feature film. He does, however, give enough depth that you can begin to understand the basis of the
    religions he covers. His interviews give a very personal and individual viewpoint that really set a sort of indelible imprint which you take away with you and are likely to think of days after.

    At no time does he minimize or ridicule these belief systems, and with at least a couple that would be very easy to do. You get the sense he is on a journey and is genuinely interested in hearing what people have to say. Most importantly, the Nature of Existence brings to light certain commonalities of religions, showing that if people would actually take a few moments to understand what their fellow neighbors on this planet believe there might be more tolerance of each other.
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  2. Nov 3, 2011
    3
    This documentary is okay. It has two main weaknesses, both of which are significant. One is that the format doesn't lend itself to real discussion of the questions and issues raised. Nygard would have done better to cut at least half of the topics covered and gone more in depth into the ones that remained. (The documentary is composed of a host of very short interview snippets on topics as wide ranging as "The Soul," "Sex," "Morality," "Spirituality," and "God," each of which could have been the focus of the whole project.)

    The other major weakness is that the film's pretense to objectivity really is just a pretense. Although representatives of a variety of worldviews are interviewed, the most prominent religious "thinkers" are people like campus evangelist Jed Smock and a group of Ultimate Christian Wrestlers, whereas the naturalist point of view is represented by world-class scientists. This is hardly a fair fight. It's too bad Nygard didn't see fit to arrange interviews with American Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga or William Lane Craig. When he was in England, he managed to get a sit-down meeting with world-famous atheist Richard Dawkins; why didn't he look up Alistair McGrath, John Polkinghorne, N. T. Wright, Brian Leftow, or Richard Swinburne?

    If you're looking for a serious and fair-minded discussion of important questions, this isn't the documentary for you. If you're looking for something in the vein of Bill Maher's "Religulous" (but with a less aggressive tone), you'll enjoy this very much.

    A friend on Facebook linked to the blog entry below just this morning; folks who are interested in this kind of thing might want to take a look:
    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2011/11/02/children-atheism-religion/
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