Why do human beings need religion? What drives them to submit themselves to the teachings, rules and obligations of a specific worldview? Is this done out of a natural, maybe God-given urge? Or to pursue personal development? How important are family ties, tradition and habits? Do people need religion in order to better cope with the conflicts and difficulties of human life? Is it clear rules, behavioral precepts and values what they are looking for? Or maybe a community of like-minded people to avoid loneliness? Do people need religion at all? Isn’t God dead? Isn’t autonomous thinking better than faith?
Religion. In the public debate at the beginning of the 21st century the term evokes the most diverse associations. It produces opposite reactions and statements, ranging from absolute devotion to the sharpest criticism and rejection. In the media the issue is often discussed in the context of current social, political, financial or even military aspects, when not of a conflict between religions themselves. The actual teachings and principles of the different faiths, however, their diversity on the one hand, the possible intersections and similarities on the other, receive much less attention in the discourse and disappear from the screens.
And yet, independently of ones own beliefs, religion is the very basis of our community as an archetypal, cultural and psychical phenomenon. This is true for any community: religion represents the intimate structure of the collective unconscious. Beliefs shape people, they influence education, socialization and world views – and make individuals similar or different to each other.
The footage for this documentary was recorded between 2010 and 2015 in Berlin. In the shadow of the fatal Nazi era and the anti-religious regime of the GDR, in more recent years the city experienced a period of bourgeois-emancipatory secularization and is today considered to be secular – more than ever so, even applying for the title of “Capital of atheism “. At the same time Berlin is also one of the places in Europe with the greatest religious diversity. Migration, globalization, cultural exchanges have transformed world cities as the German capital in the last few decades into cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic melting pots.
Sieben Meister is a documentary approaching seven different religions (Judaism, Hinduism, Thai Buddhism, Roman Catholic Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Islam, Candomblé) and seven of its representatives in an unbiased manner. Priests, monks, gurus, masters, imams, rabbis and nuns act for the good of spiritual seekers and believers, for the cohesion of their community, for the conservation and the development of their own tradition. In their office they represent the faith and the philosophy to which they belong, providing spiritual foundation and cultural identity.
Sieben Meister is an immersion animated by unprejudiced curiosity into nine different communities, worlds and cultures that live side by side a few kilometers away from each other. Behind our project is probably the most important inter-religious thought: dialogue, the ability to listen, respect, a peaceful attitude and a willingness to mutual learning, as well as the recognition of differences and the preservation of the own identity are the basis of a harmonious and equitable coexistence. Away from conversion desires, hegemony claims, demands of truth and knowing better, a group of people from different cultural backgrounds explain their thoughts around religion, God, life and death.
The film is not limited to a philosophical-theoretical reflection, on the contrary, this is embedded in lived reality: images from the liturgy and practice of the communities underline the answers of the protagonists and give a concrete reference to all discussed subjects. City- and street shots of Berlin, as geographical and cultural container of all presented protagonists, illustrate the relationship to the material world. The result is a second story level and simultaneously a dramaturgical framework for the interviews. Moreover, the film presents a rich variety of liturgical music, which is of fundamental importance in almost all faith traditions.
This film doesn’t claim to fully represent the masters or the religions they belong to, neither does it aim at discussing the religious dogmas and doctrines like a textbook. Sieben Meister is rather a representative cross-section of the religious “offer” present in Berlin today. At the same time the film wishes to promote the fruitful dialogue among the cultural as well as aesthetic, philosophical, ethnic, ethical and social diversity of the city. From the huge religious heterogeneity, which Berlin fortunately is offering again in this early twenty-first century, seven communities and their representatives were chosen according to subjective criteria. This film could come about thanks to the generous participation of all protagonists and their patient cooperation, as well as to the the support and the hospitality provided by community members.
A history of migration
A secular city
Religions (from Wikipedia)