The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #25
February, 2007
Unsubscribe info at the end of the issue
send this page to a friend


starIn the Spotlight:

The Associated Press reported on November 23, 2006 about six copyright exemptions that were approved by the Library of Congress starting November 27, 2006. One of these excemptions will let film professors copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations. It can be assumed that this rule applies to anyone who is using clips for teaching. The new rules will expire on November 27, 2009.

Comments about Film Therapy appear increasingly more frequently in Blogs. In one example the writer notes: "The narratives provide images and concepts with which to unpack our own." In another blog Kawi writes: "While movie therapy seems to be an emerging trend, (for me) its not the movie per se, but watching it in a cinema." A third blog suggests how to use movies to inspire personal and creative growth. This site suggests films that share one characteristic in common: the main character's lives are determined by their willingness to be creative. A fourth blog suggests specific movies for women to watch after a break-up.

In the article Bad Habits Can Be Good for Your Career: De-stressing After Work published by Klick Money, Candace Corner writes: "Solomon says that flawed characters ... enable you to dig a little deeper and see that not everyone's perfect."

Cinema Therapy receives increasingly more attention in Finland: Pekka Lehto reported that "a good article about cinema/movie therapy appeared in a new Finish magazine called Sara ("for women in their power age"). They are selling about 110,000 copies for 5.2 million Finish readers - so in your "scale" Sara would sell about 6.3 million copies".

In South Korea the new The Korean Institute of Film Application (KIFA) was established as a cinema therapy institute. This institute makes movie suggestions with "the goal of healing mental troubles".

Cinema Therapy has also started to become popular in Germany after an interview with the German Physician, Herbert Mück, was published in the popular German women's magazine, Freundin. A recent article in the Süddeutche Zeitung about the influence of different kinds of media on mental health by Nikolas Westerhoff refers to

In England, the use of Cinema Therapy is applied increasingly more as well. For example, Brian Mills offers people his help to "find movies that will help them grow and expand".

Movie therapy for ill children: A London children's hospital is offering bed-ridden patients the chance to enjoy the silver screen.

Catherine Hardwicke mentioned in an interview about her newest film, Nativity Story (2006), that she showed the movie,Thirteen (2003), to mothers and daughters and discussed the issues when she was on Oprah for an hour. " ... we did things with all kinds of groups all over the country, using it as cinema therapy as kind of a healing tool."


On a Web site by Associated Content, R. M. Dubuc writes in his article, Cinematherapy: Can Watching Movies Improve Your Mental Health?: "Movies often have the uncanny ability to temporarily deliver our minds to a place where we can express a wide range of emotions in a way that connects us with the main characters or movie theme without the concreteness of our own life dilemmas.", the largest library of its kind on the Web today, defines Movie Therapy under Holistic Therapies and Emotional Healing as: "a mind therapy that involves the client viewing certain films under the supervision of a therapist in order to help treat emotional and mental conditions."

E-Motion Picture Magic - A Movie Lover's Guide to Healing and Transformation has been translated into Korean. The three translators,Young Seop Kim, Eunha Kim, and June Hyoung Kim, presented the Korean version of my book to me when they attended my five-day workshop at Esalen Institute in January.

I wrote about Jay D'Ambrosio's book Rethinking Adolescence: Using Story to Navigate Life's Uncharted Years in a previous edition of this newsletter. Recently he created a new blog which focuses on life issues ranging from adolescence to adulthood, spirituality, education, and story.

The Web site The Critics’ Room presents itself as "an uncommon sort of movie review and discussion site in that our emphasis is on those aspects of film that tend to get little attention by mainstream reviewers—themes, values, morals, messages. We ask 'How do the films we watch contribute to—or undermine—our daily lives?'"

The creators of the new Web site Film Fresh hope to stimulate conversation about international films, about film technology, and about the larger cultural questions that films illuminate.


Francis and Brother David

Esalen Film Seminar July 27-August 3, 2007, Big Sur, CA
Families in Film: Now and Forever

A family is that warm ‘familiar circle’ where we learn about life and laughter and, most important, love. Yet that love we feel for our families can lead to loss and pain. Through family life, we experience a full cycle from birth through childhood and adolescence to adulthood, old age, and death of those closest to us. The life cycle lived uniquely in one family reflects the experience of families from eons past and future in a remarkably consistent way across cultures. The films of our seminar will awaken the memories of all our families and so evoke and develop our compassion through contemplation and self-reflection. During this 7-day seminar, we will show great films from India, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, Italy, and the United States.
Film-viewing seminars led by Francis and Brother David have become a tradition at Esalen since 1990; this one will be their 16th together. Year after year, old timers return for these festive events, and newcomers are amazed at the impact produced by a unique combination of ingredients: fine films, carefully prepared hand-out materials, state-of-the-art home theatre equipment, and processing of the experience through group interaction and through personal silent reflection, say, on a bench in Esalen's fragrant garden or in a hot tub under the stars.
For further information, contact Francis Lu at For a description of their 2002 Esalen film seminar on gratefulness, go to

Francis Lu wrote the following two articles: At the Movies - Titanic (The Journal of the C. G. Jung Institute Library, 16 (4), 67-73) and Personal Transformation through an Encounter with Death: A Study of Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru on its Fiftieth Anniversary (The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2006, Vol. 37, No.1).

Shoshanna April

March 3, 2007 (Saturday)
Spiritual Cinema Circle
The Spiritual Cinema Circle exists in order to provide you with entertaining movies that will:
• Awaken your sense of joy and wonder
• Inspire love and compassion
• Evoke a deeper connection with the universe around you

Upcoming movie: Rumi: Turning Ecstatic
Place: Richmond, CA (directions given at registration)
Time: 7:00 PM
Cost: Love donation gratefully appreciated
Directions: Given at time of Confirmation
RSVP: Pre-registration required, space is limited to 12

Call Shoshanna April 510-502-4164 or write to to reserve your space.

star Cinema Therapy Q&A

Sharon Fairhurst (from the UK):
In England we are bound by a duty of care and have the Hippocratic path of which we should adhere to the sentiment of i.e. do no harm do good although this is a self regulated duty for therapists. We are in the process of voluntary regulation of therapies such as counselling and aromatherapy and reflexology etc that come under the umbrella heading of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Doctors and nurses however are licensed to practice and have a standardised training schedule which in CAM we are heading towards along with voluntary regulation. Although counselling has got a standardised training schedule. At current there is no legal act that means I could not set up practice in whatever therapy I choose whether I am trained or not although thankfully this is changing. I could offer cinematherapy and there is no real body to check that I am proficient in it unless I belong to a specific governing body of which there are a few to choose and then only if there were a malpractice claim would they be involved.

Birgit Wolz:
I use (and recommend) CT as an adjunct to traditional therapeutic methods. Therefore I believe that legalities of practicing psychotherapy are not specific to CT. BTW., in the US the individual states regulate our profession. Most states require licensing exams to practice psychotherapy.

Fenella Das Gupta (from the US):
May i ask a few questions about cinematherapy please. I have seen two wonderful films recently: Little Miss Sunshine and the latest Rocky. I am wondering how you generate questions for movies. WRT to Rocky, i think i would like to ue it with a Cancer patient ( with Borderline features) , who has survived many trials and tribulations. WRT to Little Miss Sunshine, i know its an important movie, but i am not sure what would be good questions to get my clients thinking....

Birgit Wolz
I loved Little Miss Sunshine. Without knowing details about your client, I can only guess that this film as well as Rocky could be helpful for him or her.
I am not sure whether you have my book or took my online course Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Movies In the Therapeutic Process . The introduction will give you an overview. In these publications you find many good questions for clients. You might also check my articles and the movie reviews. On my Guidelines for watching films you find the most common questions that can be used for clients.
Specifically for the client that you mentioned the questions will need to be about overcoming challenges. In my workshops I have done the following guided meditation in the context of showing Whale Rider: “Watch on your inner movie screen, a scene or a sequence of scenes of your live story up until this moment, the movie of your life. In this part of your life you prevailed over difficult challenges. First you might have thought that this is not possible, but you came out on the other end, like Pai in the movie. … Are you facing a challenge in your life right now? A big one or a small one? Focus on a challenge that you are facing. … Step into Pai’s shoes, become her in your mind’s eye. How do you feel in your own body with Pai’s energy inside you? … Feel her strength and determination inside yourself. Notice how you feel as you approach your challenge with this strength and courage.”
After that the following questions can be asked:
1. Did a character (Pai?) in the movie develop certain strengths or other capacities that you would like to develop or strengthen as well?
2. Did anything in this movie touch you? The fact that a character or a scene moved you might indicate that your subconscious mind is revealing information that might guide you toward healing and wholeness. What might this guiding “message” be?
3. Did you experience something that connected or re-connected you with certain values, virtues, capacities, inner wisdom, or your higher self as you watched the clip or immediately after?

You could apply this to the movies that you are using and to your client. I hope that this is helpful.

Daniel De Jager (from the UK):
I am a social worker working with children and their families. I am very interested in cinema therapy as a way of intervention and as a way of achieving change - Especially in respect of using it in my direct work with the children. I wonder if you could advise me about where I could learn more about cinema therapy??
Also - I have been working with a boy (11 years old) for more than two years now. The boy is in foster care and had to deal with a lot of loss in his short life. I am sadly in a process of handing over case responsibility to a colleague - I am thinking of using a film as a medium to address some of the themes that will come to the forefront during this transition period (loss, letting go, new beginnings, friendship etc.) - However, I am racking my brain to find "the right movie" but, can't think of any specific one - Any suggestions?

Birgit Wolz:
Not knowing the exact circumstances or the personality of your 11 year old client, I can only guess which movies might be helpful. Have you thought about using “Billy Elliot”, “Finding Forrester”, ”Stand by Me”, “Powder”, “October Sky”, or “Seebiscuit”?
In general, I don’t specialize in working with children, but the principles that I describe in my book (it contains over 2,500 movie suggestions) can be applied to work with them. CT works very well with children.

Bjarne Eiby (from Denmark):
Do you know of a movie where a person gets cancer and SURVIVES? In movies people always die when they get cancer. I can't think of a movie with another story. Can you?

Birgit Wolz:
Does it have to be cancer in the movie? Many clients are able to apply different circumstances to their own. Lorenzo’s Oil (see review below) might be helpful. It is based on a true story.

Bjarne Eiby
I will watch Lorenzo’s Oil again to see if I can use it with my cancer clients – or their relatives. So thank you for reminding me.
However I still wonder why I (and people around me) can’t think of a movie where a person with cancer survives. In the language of movies it is apparently so, that you always die when you get cancer. And so is life fortunately not always. The difference between Lorenzo’s Oil and a movie where the person survives her cancer is, that the person with cancer feels the fear of dying from and in her own body and emotions. And her own body must through the treatment and recovery – and she has to face the life and the people around her in the aftermath of her cancer and treatment. So I can see some clear parallels but the lack of a specific rolemodel is also their. And that is why I still seek for the ultimate cancerrecoverymovie – so to speak. On the other hand I can see some possibilities for the therapy when I use a movie where we have to face to themes more indirectly. For instant in Lorenzo’s oil. But that depends on the client.

Birgit Wolz
I will be on the lookout for a movie where a character survives cancer.
Whether a cancer patient finds Lorenzo’s Oil helpful depends on their capacity to think metaphorically.

Readers! If somebody knows of a movie in which a character survives cancer, please email Bjarne at and me.


Therapeutic Movie Review Column
By Birgit Wolz

Lorenzo's Oil

Director: George Miller
Producer: George Miller
Screenwriter: George Miller, Nick Enright
Cast: Susan Sarandon , Nick Nolte , Peter Ustinov , Kathleen Wilhoite , Zack O'Malley Greenburg  
MPAA Rating: PG 13

Year of Release: 1992


Lorenzo's Oil chronicles a couple's search for a cure for their son's progressive, degenerative, and presumably terminal disease. Michaela and Augusto Odones' five-year-old son, Lorenzo, is diagnosed with the most devastating form of Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) -- the childhood cerebral form . They are told that Myelin, the "insulation" around Lorenzo's nerves in the brain, breaks down over time and prevents these nerves from functioning. Only boys have the most severe form of this disease, because ALD is an inherited genetic disorder linked to the X sex chromosome. Victims die after losing all sensory functions . All known treatments are experimental, and none is rated as successful. No boy with this disease has ever survived. Though the parents enlist their son in the most promising of the experimental treatment programs immediately following his diagnosis, the disease progresses rapidly and things look hopeless.

Despite the pessimistic prognosis from all the experts, the Odones refuse to give up. While Augusto begins researching ALD himself , Michaela stays at their son's side. She devotes herself to keeping her child alive with a single-minded focus that alienates everyone around her, including, at times, her husband. The emotional strain takes its toll on their relationship, but neither loses hope nor faith.

In his quest for a treatment, Augusto Odone clashes with doctors, scientists, and support groups, who are skeptical that anything could be done about ALD, much less by laypeople. He persists, setting up camp in medical libraries, combing the medical literature looking for clues , reviewing animal experiments, badgering researchers, and questioning top doctors all over the world. It becomes clear to him that one problem he faces is the lack of a system for integrating knowledge about the disease.

Eventually, Michaela and Augusto take it upon themselves to organize an international symposium of experts and parents of afflicted boys. They begin to connect various unrelated and overlooked theories. Despite resistance from a disbelieving medical world, they finally connect the right ideas, discovering that a possible treatment of ALD lies in adding a certain kind of olive oil to their son's diet .

They contact over 100 firms around the world until they find an elderly British chemist who is willing to take on the challenge of distilling the proper formula. It proves successful in stopping the accumulation of the long chain fatty acids in the brain that have been causing their son's steady decline, thereby halting the progression of Lorenzo's disease.

The film ends with Lorenzo at the age of 14 showing definite improvement. Several healthy children are shown who, having followed a course of treatment with Lorenzo's oil , have remained symptom-free.

Theoretical Contemplations

Because Lorenzo's Oil is based on a true story , this movie had a powerful effect as it brought the attention of the world to ALD in general.

Clients are often more impacted by a film that portrays real events than by fantasy stories. Therefore this movie had a strong effect on several of my clients, especially when I instructed them to watch it with conscious awareness . When clients learn to view a movie with conscious awareness, they are given a tool to develop increased awareness in real life and to increase their capacity to access their inner wisdom. Inner wisdom is more than knowledge. Whereas knowledge is simply acquired information, wisdom requires understanding on a deep level.

Since our rational mind is only a small part of the portal to our inner wisdom, watching with conscious awareness is a process in which we watch and listen with our whole body. Body awareness helps us to access inner wisdom through a felt sense rather than through mental perceptions. The awareness of our physical reactions is an important vehicle to increasing awareness.

The guidelines for watching a movie with conscious awareness instruct clients to view a film by paying attention to the story and to themselves. They learn to bring non-judging attention, curiosity, and acceptance to whatever is arising in their experience of the present moment . They observe how the movie's images, ideas, conversations, and characters affect their physical sensations and notice any tension or holding as they watch a movie. In all likelihood, a film's stimulants are similar to whatever unbalances these clients in daily life. To release tension they may experiment with "breathing into" any part of their body that feels strained. Another entryway into conscious awareness is to observe how the movie scenes affect their breathing.

As clients practice becoming aware of physical sensations that are triggered by emotions during a movie experience, they increase their capacity to tolerate unwanted emotions in everyday life without needing to suppress them, numb out, act out, or release them in other unhealthy ways. They do not need to resist these feelings any more because they become more familiar with them and eventually experience these emotions as just another energy in their body. Without resistance, emotions can run their course and do not get unnecessarily stronger. Consequently clients will be less likely to avoid a feared challenge and can develop the courage to face it because their anxiety no longer overwhelms or paralyzes them.

Eventually the fear or other previously rejected emotion will dissipate, and clients feel strong enough to take on the challenges that had prevented them from moving forward in their lives.         

Cinema Alchemy

My client, Tom, was depressed because of chronic pain in his hips and thighs. He had gone from doctor to doctor, and had seen chiropractors and acupuncturists. Nothing seemed to help. He felt so bad he didn't want to think about his situation any more. I noticed he had gained weight because he didn't exercise any more. The increased weight made his condition even worse. He told me that he felt deflated and ready to give up. I encouraged Tom to watch Lorenzo's Oil and explained the process of watching a movie with conscious awareness.

Tom is a scientifically-minded person. He was very receptive to this movie because the medical circumstances are well described. He even did some research on the Internet about Lorenzo's case. My client was impressed that Lorenzo Odone had turned 27 years old in 2005 and that Augusto Odone had received an honorary Ph.D. for his pioneering work in researching and discovering a significant treatment for ALD.

Tom was surprised about his own responses to employing the technique of watching with conscious awareness. First he felt even worse when he sensed the pain of the family Odones. He noticed a sinking feeling in his stomach. As I had advised him, he stayed aware of his physical sensations and even remembered to "breathe into" them.   As the movie progressed, it became increasingly easier for him to stay with his emotional experience in a conscious way. His "inner container" for previously rejected emotions grew larger and stronger. After a while the difficult feelings dissipated, and he noticed how he became more and more hopeful and excited. He even got in touch with a deep inner knowing, like a hunch or an intuition that he should not give up yet but keep looking for ways that can help heal his hips.

After watching Lorenzo's Oil , Tom started feeling less depressed and gained new energy to make phone calls in order to find a specialist who would be able to treat his ailment. It took him a while, but with growing determination, he found the right treatment eventually. Tom feels much better now.

Guidelines and questions for clients who are facing physical problems

While watching the movie:

•  Notice how Lorenzo's parents don't give up in spite of the extreme emotional strain they experience. They become very creative in their efforts to save their son.

•  What touches you most about them?

After watching the movie:

•  How have you coped with difficult challenges in your life before?

•  Check in with yourself whether you might have an inner knowing, like a hunch or an intuition about starting to look for new ways of healing.

•  Can you imagine how things could turn for the better, if you approached new creative solutions to your problem (possibly finding another doctor, a chiropractor, or a acupuncturist) with the determination, courage and creativity that Augusto and Michaela display in the movie?

•  Can you imagine how much stronger you would feel if you faced healing your physical challenge in the same way as they did?


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

-Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT.,
Canyon, CA, USA


-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
editor & webmaster
Moab, UT, USA