Chakra Discussions

ISKCON Statement: Bee Season Movie

by Vyenkata Bhatta dasa, ISKCON Communications

Posted November 19, 2005

On November 11, 2005, Fox Searchlight released the film Bee Season nationwide. The film, which is based on the 2001 novel by Myla Goldberg, stars Hollywood veterans Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. The story focuses on Saul Naumann (Gere), a Jewish religious scholar who attempts to mold his daughter Eliza (Flora Cross) into a Kabbalah prodigy when he discovers she has an uncanny ability to spell. At the same time, Saul's son Aaron (played by Max Minghella) embarks on a spiritual quest which culminates in his joining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement. The filmmakers consulted with ISKCON members in Berkeley, California, and featured several practicing devotees in scenes depicting Krishna worship services.

On behalf of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, we appreciate the filmmakers' sincere efforts to accurately depict the Hare Krishna movement. At the same time, we are concerned that, despite those efforts, viewers and members of the media may misinterpret some of Aaron's actions to be representative of ISKCON policies or beliefs.

In the film, Aaron falsifies a high school permission slip and surreptitiously stays at the Hare Krishna temple; in real life, ISKCON maintains a rigid policy that requires minors to provide written parental consent before they may stay at a temple. Interfering between a child and his or her parents, no matter how eager the child is to take up Krishna practices, is unacceptable and strictly prohibited. Unlike virtually all of the Krishna devotee characters depicted in the film, most ISKCON members today do not live as monks and nuns within temples. Along with their families, they live, work, and go to school in the general community, practicing Krishna consciousness in their homes and attending services at the temple on a regular basis.

Bee Season raises important questions about family obligation, freewill, personal choice, control, understanding, and religious pluralism. The film does so while examining two popular, but often misunderstood, religious traditions: Kabbalah and Hare Krishna. We hope that audiences will appreciate the complexity of these questions, rather than vilify religious traditions that they may know little about.