by Madhava Smullen
The independent film 10,000 Saints, which includes scenes shot in the Manhattan Hare Krishna Temple “The Bhakti Center” and features ISKCON devotees, was released on Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming services on October 6th.
Based on the novel by Eleanor Henderson, it is directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini of the Oscar-nominated American Splendor. It stars Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day), Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld (co-stars of Ender’s Game), and Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Lone Survivor).
Set in the late 1980s, the film follows a teenager from Vermont (Butterfield) who moves to New York City to live with his father (Hawke) in the East Village. There, he meets a pregnant girl (Steinfeld) and the lead singer (Hirsch) of a straight-edge hardcore band.
While the film’s graphic drug use, sexual situations, vulgar language and dark tone don’t make it a favorite choice for all devotees, it does depict an honest coming-of-age story of young people trying to find themselves. And the concept of “Hare Krishna” features quite prominently.
As hardcore punk fans, the main characters connect with “Krishnacore,” a music scene pioneered by ISKCON devotees Ragunath Capo and Paramananda Das with their band Shelter in which fans lived a clean lifestyle abstaining from meat, drugs, alcohol and illicit sex. Many young people became devotees of Krishna through this hardcore straightedge scene.
In 10,000 Saints’ opening scene, the main young characters wake up in a Hare Krishna temple after a bad trip.
Later, Hirsch’s straightedge band leader Johnny and Steinfeld’s Eliza are married in the temple with a traditional Vedic fire ceremony. Ethan Hawke’s Les and Butterfield’s Jude also appear in the scene.
Kirtan singer and second generation ISKCON devotee Gaura Vani, who was featured in the film as “Hare Krishna Priest,” recalls, “I got to live out one of my long-time dreams of chanting mantras about Krishna in a Hollywood film. I chose to sing the prayers of Lord Brahma (also called the Brahma Samhita) where he describes the supreme beauty and attractiveness of Govinda and His spiritual world. At the end of each stanza Emile Hirsch and Hailee Steinfeld toss handfuls of grains into the fire and sing ‘Swaha.’”
Many devotees from the Bhakti Center, including Doyal Gauranga, Chaitanya Kapadia, Vinay Vanodia, Komala Kumari, and Vraja Gopal also appeared in the scene. And a priest is shown offering arati to Sri Sri Gaura Nitai.
“It’s definitely enjoyable to see the Bhakti Center and the beautiful atmosphere of flower garlands, colorful saris and ecstatic Kirtan captured for posterity in this independent film,” says Gaura Vani.
Throughout the rest of 10,000 Saints, “Hare Krishna” is frequently repeated, and noted as a central part of the setting. Meanwhile shots from the temple scene have been often used in major media reviews of the film.
“When I went to the Washington D.C. premiere of the movie,” Gaura Vani says, “Eleanor Henderson, the author of the source novel, told me the scenes at the temple are her favorite scenes in the film.”
10,000 Saints is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Amazon Instant Video here.