Walk With Me
WALK WITH MEA documentary film by Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh
102 minutes, 2017. NTSC DVD
English, United Kingdom
NOW AVAILABLE IN CANADA AND USA.
With unprecedented access, Walk With Me takes us deep inside the world-famous monastery of Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, and captures the life of a monastic community who have given up all their possessions for one common purpose – to practice the art of mindfulness. Filmed over three years, this visceral film is a meditation on a community determined to develop a deep sense of presence, not just for themselves but for all those they love. As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ inner journey is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Statement by Max Pugh, Director
Ten years ago my younger brother gave up his money, his car and his house, and ordained as a Buddhist monk in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. His decision did not entirely come as a surprise to me, as he had been leaning towards Buddhism since his graduation from university a few years earlier.
We spoke at length about his choice of ‘career’, but it wasn’t until an elder monk from his community approached me about shooting a documentary during their 2011 US and Canada teaching tour with Thich Nhat Hanh that I really had a chance to experience monastic life for myself. At this point, I teamed up with my old friend and fellow film director Marc J. Francis and the film now known as Walk With Me was born.
The experience of being on the road with the monastics changed my life in many ways. The practice of deep listening, sharing and living alongside the monastics moved me to dig deeper and to work harder to find ways to best represent their way of being on film.
We invested a lot of time in the film process to allow for experimentation and the chance to develop a cinematic language capable of communicating the actual lived practice of a life lived differently and mindfully.
We focussed on an experiential approach; to create a visceral and immersive experience which plunges the audience deep into the poetry of the present moment – a feeling so elusive in the reality of the daily grind.
When Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a life-changing stroke soon after we finished filming, it became clear that there would never be a chance to make a film with Thich Nhat Hanh and his community in this way again. We therefore felt a responsibility to accurately portray what we had experienced living with the monastics.
"It's possible that the 94 minutes spent watching Walk With Me may be a suspension of life and its wonders, but Pugh and Frances have made a documentary which is fascinating enough to be worth the risk." – Screen International
"Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil." – Laure Bonville, London Film Festival
“Benedict Cumberbatch lent his considerable vocal prowess to the narration of Walk With Me, which provides a peek into the life of Zen master Thich Nhát Hanh at his secluded Plum Village monastery outside France's Bordeaux region. The film, which had its Los Angeles premiere in early September, is directed by Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh. The scenery is sublime, the messages uplifting and just the act of watching it will make you want to slow down.” – LA Times, Sept 28, 2017
“When a little girl (Plum Village is one of the few Buddhist retreats that lets parents bring their children) says of the death of her dog, 'I don’t know how to be not so sad,' Walk With Me[…] becomes a moving examination of mortality and life choices.” – Village Voice, Aut 15, 2017
Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis turned three years of footage into a ruminative poem as lyrically shot and edited as its subject’s own writing.... You may not come out of [Francis' and Pugh's] documentary wishing to join Plum Village, but the filmmakers leave you desperately wanting more time with it. – Austin Chronicle, May 25, 2017
What Walk With Me offers first and foremost is the chance to spend time at Plum Village, the monastic community that Nhat Hanh established in 1982 in southwestern France. The vérité film, which distills the directors’ three years of access into a scrapbook of moments at the monastery and during stateside tours, provides no background on the monk and activist, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. The focus, as it should be in keeping with the practice of mindfulness, is on the here and now. – Hollywood Reporter, May 25, 2017
"Cooling to the mind and soothing to the spirit" – NY Times, Nov 8, 2017