Check It Out: ‘Sungazers’ are aglow — or dangerously goofy

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photoJan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org.
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Review

“Eat the Sun”: DVD produced and directed by Peter Sorcher; Sorcher Films, 82 minutes.

At last we’re experiencing multiple days of sunshine. I’ve been trying to soak up the sun’s rays as much as possible because I know that Mother Nature will turn on the faucet again — repeatedly, no doubt — and I want my body’s storehouse of vitamin D to be full up.

However, I’m trying not to overdo the sun worshipping bit because A) I want to avoid skin cancer and a leathery epidermis, and B) I don’t want to turn into a sungazer. Funny how innocuous the term “sungazing” sounds. After all, people “stargaze,” and that just refers to a passion for astronomy, or a propensity to daydream. But sungazing, as it is defined in the documentary “Eat the Sun,” literally means to stare at the sun — directly, with no eye protection — for as much as 44 minutes per day.

Many of the sungazers interviewed for this documentary talk about feeling “charged up” after their solar sessions. What does this mean? Well, a general sense of physical and spiritual well-being is mentioned many times. But for those who take it seriously enough to work their way up to the magical 44-minute mark (which can take months and months as a person challenges himself to fight past the body’s instinct to stop staring at the sun), the claim is that a person will no longer need to eat. So, maybe “odd” is too tame a description for these diurnal activities. Farfetched, wacky, completely cracked? Perhaps, but when you watch the film and see how earnest some of the sungazers are, you just might wonder if there isn’t something to fueling up your body with energy from the sun. Or, like me, you may wrinkle your brow, and think, “no way — this is a crazy dangerous activity.”

If you feel a little adventurous in your documentary viewing, take a chance with this out-of-the-ordinary film. The filmmakers take care not to endorse the practice of sungazing but rather to offer a look at one of society’s quirkiest behaviors. It’s not surprising when eye professionals examine the eyes of one of the sungazers and find irreversible damage. Nor is it surprising that Hira Ratan Manek, the man most associated with launching this movement, and who claims not to have eaten in over eight years, is found to be less than truthful thanks to some detective work done by the film’s director.

As I said earlier, I’m a fan of that big, yellow disk in the sky, but I have no interest in extreme sun worshipping. Sunglasses, a hat, and SPF 30-plus sunscreen are a girl’s best friends.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org. She blogs at youbetterreadnow.blogspot.com.