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Become Your Own Guru at the Atheist Film Festival

Vikram Gahndi (as sham yoga guru Kumare), meditates with his followers in his doc of the same name, which plays at the 5th Atheist Film Festival on Saturday.

There's no zealot like a convert, so the saying goes, and if you believe it the word "atheist" might set you to minor fits, suffering from visions of being buttonholed by a very very serious young man in glasses reading you the riot act about how your god is dead. Have no fear: The organized atheists of today are not your father's atheists--ok, maybe they are--but they're nothing like pimple-faced vegans roaming burger joints in search of their next convert. The humans behind the 5th Atheist Film Festival seem to be acutely aware of their self-serious image, poking fun at themselves with the tagline "a film festival you can believe in," and keeping their fest politely short at only a day.

The gem of Saturday's offerings is Vikram Ghandi's 2011 film Kumare, making it's second SF appearance here at the festival. Ghandi, a longtime spiritual seeker like many atheists, decided to transform himself into a yoga guru named only Kumare. He began training by growing his hair out, inventing new yoga poses, and, most importantly, imitating the creaky voice of his first-gen immigrant grandmother. He then travelled to Arizona with two female friends, who posed as his devotees and began to amass a following. As it turns out, it was even easier than it sounds, and Ghandi ultimately found himself on his own inner journey, torn between the real connections he's made with his flock and the fake personality on which they're based.

The remainder of the fest's offerings are equally well considered and on-target, especially Peter Mullan's verifiably excellent 2002 true-life drama The Magdalene Sisters, the creationism-slaying doc The Revisionaries and the Paul Bettany-starring Charles Darwin biopic Creation. Just like you have to get up pretty early to fool these guys though, and you'll have to get up early if you want to grab a festival pass and spend the whole day with them, as the tightly-curated fest starts at noon.

The 5th Atheist Film Festival runs this Saturday only at the Roxie. Grab tickets here.

See video

The trailer for Jon Ameil's Creation.