FREE THE MIND(Phie Ambo). 80 minutes. Opens Friday (June 7). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Free The Mind tests what it presumes is a bold premise: that the human mind can be effectively rewired (or "hacked") by practising certain breathing techniques. At the centre of the film is Richard Davidson, a professor who sets out to test his mindfulness technique on kindergarten children suffering from attention deficit disorder and military veterans beset by PTSD.
What niggles most about Davidson's theory are its pretensions of novelty. The connection between breathing and the mind is the basis of zazen meditation, the core discipline of Zen Buddhism since the sixth century, something the film acknowledges.
Perhaps the scientific thoroughness Davidson brings to the ancient technique of "following the breath" makes it more palatable in a Western context. Some find it easier to accept the efficacy of alternative medicine or therapeutic practice when patients are hooked up to some diodes that tracking their brain waves and offer certifiable data.
The most memorable sections deal directly with the aftershocks suffered by many military vets. (One man can't bear to have people sitting behind him in a restaurant.)
The film's profile of these deeply wounded men lingers long after its light-handed pushing of Davidson's agenda has faded.