Ram Dass, Going Home is a Netflix Original short documentary that follows spiritualist and author Ram Dass at his home in Maui, Hawaii. The film gives a poignant look at Dass’ own views on some fairly weighty topics including spirituality, life, and death. The documentary aired on Netflix on April 6, 2018.
I had never actually heard of Ram Dass until I sat down to watch the short Netflix documentary Ram Dass, Going Home. For those of you out there who are equally oblivious, he’s an American spiritualist and author. Most notably he wrote a book in 1971 called Be Here Now, which I assume he named after Oasis’ third album. (To clarify: I am joking. I understand the concept of linear time, just about). What I also didn’t realize was that in his early life Richard Alpert (not the one from Lost), as he was known before he changed his name to Ram Dass, was actually a professor at Harvard University as well. Anyway, just a few brief Ram Dass facts for you to dazzle other guests next time you’re at a dinner party or similarly high-brow function.
Despite my ignorance of Ram Dass I really enjoyed this Netflix documentary. It’s not a documentary in the traditional sense of the word, or at least it’s not what I would associate with being a documentary in the traditional sense of the word. It’s something much more abstract and free-flowing than that, which given what I’ve learned in the hour I’ve spent reading about Ram Dass, I think that this style is actually quite fitting.
The first thing that struck me about the film is that some of the visuals are utterly beautiful. I think I might be slightly biased as I absolutely love Hawaii and have been lucky enough to visit a couple of times, so a lot of the shots brought some fond memories flowing back to me (despite having visited another island entirely). There’s no denying that Hawaii is a truly beautiful place and some of the shots of the islands and sea are wonderful.
As I mentioned, it’s not a traditional documentary in the sense of having a strong throughline or central argument. Instead what we are given are some of Ram Dass’ thoughts and musings on his life’s work across a range of topics including spirituality, life, and death – so pretty much the big three, really. I think that a project like this has the potential to become either incredibly preachy or a little pretentious; thankfully this ends up being neither.
I found it to just be an incredibly relaxing experience, that reminded me very much of a guided meditation more than hard-hitting documentary – and I mean that very much as a compliment and not a criticism. I found it genuinely fascinating when I could keep up with what was actually being said, as I’m not too proud to admit that a lot of the spiritual stuff went right over my head.
This is an interesting documentary, that made me stop and think about things in a slightly different way. I think anything that can make us stop and think and reframe some of our own beliefs, if only for a few minutes, is something to be applauded and to be enjoyed. Throw some beautiful Hawaiian visuals into the mix and you have a rather relaxing way to spend 31 minutes right there.
Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.