Hare Krishna concern over Bee Season

Los Angeles, USA - Fox Searchlight released Bee Season nationwide On November 11. Thefilm, based on Myla Goldberg's 2001 novel, 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 her uncanny ability to spell. At the same time, Saul's son Aaron (Max Minghella) embarks on a spiritual quest that 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 as extras.

"We appreciate the filmmaker's sincere efforts to accurately depict the Hare Krishna movement," an ISKCON Communication statement said, ”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 our policies or beliefs."

In the film, Aaron is shown deceiving his parents to stay at a 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 the Krishna faith, is unacceptable and strictly prohibited," says ISKCON spokesman Vyenkata Bhatta.

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. They maintain families, and 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. ISKCON represents Vaishnavism, a monotheistic faith that is often considered the largest denomination within the broad Vedic, or Hindu culture.

The film's directors, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, seem to share ISKCON's concern that Hare Krishna characters in the movie be depicted with respect. "The Hare Krishnas get a bad knock," Siegel recently told reporters from the Chicago Tribune. "They're really just a branch of Hinduism basically, and they believe in making their presence felt so that people might join in their experience.”

Kate Bosworth, who plays a Krishna devotee in the film, enjoyed spending time at the ISKCON temple in preparation for her role. "For me, it was all part of coming to see what the story of Bee Season is really about - which is that we all have our different ways of searching for meaning, for God, for love, for whatever it is you want to call it."

"Bee Season raises important questions about family dynamics, control, understanding, and religious pluralism, while examining two popular, but often misunderstood, religious traditions: Kabbalah and the Hare Krishna movement," Bhatta offers. "We just hope that audiences will appreciate the complexity of these questions, rather than vilify religious traditions that they may know little about."